Be Original. Put Others First. Exceed Expectations. Foster Growth. A Part of the Whole.
When Jacksonville University Athletic Director Alex Ricker-Gilbert unveiled the department's core values a few weeks ago, he tasked staffers and student-athletes to commit, to find tangible ways they could integrate the ideas into their daily habits, and follow through.
In the wake of Hurricane Irma's devastation, which left the University and several Jacksonville communities with severe property damage, the department's core values helped motivate recovery efforts.
It was a no-brainer for staff and student-athletes to be involved in the campus-wide cleanup of JU, removing trees and debris and starting the restoration effort for facilities like the Negaard Rowing Center which is located directly on the St. Johns River. But, they were also reminded the university is a small cog within the larger Jacksonville area, and set their sights on the community at large.
"I couldn't be more proud of our student-athletes and staff," said Ricker-Gilbert. "Not only for their commitment to our core values, but on a deeper level, for their commitment to serve. This past week, they showcased an unbelievably powerful show of support for our university and community."
The Dolphins' football program hosted Walsh in its home-opener this past Saturday, and instead of charging admission, it encouraged fans to donate canned goods and other non-perishables that could be donated to Arlington Community Services.
"They contacted me, saying, 'We're going to have a food drive. Would you like the food?' Well, duh, that's a no-brainer. Of course we do," said Deborah Woods, executive director of Arlington Community Services. "And the players got out as well as some of the staff over there, and it was just wonderful. I mean, my guys didn't have to do a whole lot because those boys took care of it."
JU's softball team also didn't hesitate to lend a hand to neighbors in the River City as players and coaching staff helped clean-up a home in Middleburg that took on nearly four feet of standing water.
Many of the 12 student-athletes that were there didn't even know the owners.
"It's a lot. It's a blessing; makes you want to help other people," the homeowner said. "All you saw is cars on the road. They pulled up with masks on, gloves on, and were 'All right, let's go.'"
The contagious acts of putting others first and being a part of the whole also prompted the Dolphins' men's soccer team to commit to a Day of Service at L'Arche Jacksonville, a housing center for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities.
Even head coaches Brian Copham (women's soccer) and Tony Jasick (men's basketball) hopped in as Paul Bunyans, sawing away at fallen trees on campus and in their neighborhoods.
It was the first of many steps in Jacksonville University Athletics implementing its core values.