As the five minute timer began, the teams raced to beat each other in the friendly but “spicy” competition — not on the court but giving back to the community.
The Loyola men’s volleyball team has had multiple volunteering opportunities over the past few months with Lakeview Pantry and Feed My Starving Children (FMSC). The team was determined on continuing its past volunteer efforts, which has become an important part of their team’s initiative.
The two organizations are non-profits which help provide meals for the homeless and those in need.
Throughout the men’s volleyball program’s history, Loyola assistant coach Galen Dodd giving back to the community has always been important — even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We kind of really do emphasize our guys wanting to put themselves out there in the community and making sure they are doing more than just volleyball,” Dodd said. “One of our kind of big team tenants is kind of a ‘men for others’ idea where it’s like, ‘Hey, what are we doing outside of ourselves, outside of our general kind of vicinity to really improve where the world is at?”
Due to COVID-19, the team had trouble finding places to volunteer with a large group but were able to divide into two groups at Lakeview Pantry and go as a team to FMSC.
In two days at Lakeview Pantry, the team was able to pack 400 boxes for the non-profit, which will be able to feed 400 families Dodd said. In one day at FMSC, the team packed almost $20,000 worth of dried food that will be shipped to children worldwide.
Another project the team worked on was Movember, a global fundraising initiative which took place during November to raise awareness for men’s health. The team started participating in the project around ten years ago after a former player battled testicular cancer. It has since transformed into an overall men’s health awareness, this year emphasizing on men’s mental health.
“Plenty of people deal with mental health issues,” redshirt senior setter Garrett Zolg said.
The team grew mustaches during the month of November and sold green t-shirts with a Rambler with a mustache on it to raise money for the cause. In one month, they made over $500 and also reached over 10,000 people through their social media campaign.
Zolg said a lot of people have struggled with their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially students. The team sold green t-shirts with a rambler and a mustache on it to start more conversations about men’s mental health — which the color green represents.
Justin Ross, redshirt first-year middle blocker said he holds a special place for volunteering, even outside of the team’s work.
Ross, 19, said his parents instilled a sense of giving back to others when he was growing up. He said he has memories of volunteering at soup kitchens on Christmas and going with his brother to nursing homes. He also was the president of a volunteering chapter at his high school named Best Buddies, helping students with developmental disabilities.
“As I got more into my sport, I spent all this time on myself sort of thinking like, ‘oh, what can I do for me?” Ross said. “There was like a piece missing, which is where, without my family sort of pushing me, I started to find joy with doing it myself, reaching out to others and helping them.”
When it came to volunteering with his team, Ross said it helped him see his teammates outside the context of volleyball and get to know them better, all while doing something good for the world.
Zolg, a 23 year old exercise science major, is in his fifth year on the team and has experienced many volunteering opportunities, including working with the Special Olympics in recent years.
Similar to Ross, Zolg’s parents instilled volunteering in him at a young age. He said he remembers working in soup kitchens, donating clothes and going to food and canned good drives. Zolg said volunteering has put many things into perspective for him over the years.
“We’re pretty fortunate, pretty lucky, pretty spoiled to have so many nice things at Loyola,” Zolg said. “A lot of people don’t, and kind of coming together, you know, we’re from all over the country and people out of the country, and we come together, different beliefs, different kinds of personalities, and we all come together and, and help others out.”
Zolg and Ross said giving back to the community is something unique with their team.
“We’re making time to go out of our way because helping others is important and we really pride ourselves on that,” Zolg said. “It’s a serious core value and belief. We’re trying to go out there and provide a positive impact on those people we meet, so it’s definitely a priority for us.”
The team returns to the court on Jan. 28 at Lincoln Memorial University after their four-game homestand. First serve is scheduled at 6 p.m. and the broadcast has yet to be announced.