Once in a while a student athlete makes a decision to get involved and runs with it. Such is the case with this month's Hero of the Month, for whom running is the norm, sophomore distance runner Ben DeJarnette.
Since he began coming to SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee) in January, Ben has strode right into the chair position for SAAC's O Heroes Committee, taken a leadership role in planning the upcoming Quakin' Action, participated as a facilitator in the 'No Illusions' body image project with our own sports psychologist Dr. Amy Athey and the 'Healthy Athletes' committee, and been a great supporter of the Cesar Chavez Elementary School Running Club. And the list doesn't end there.
When asked if he's always been this involved Ben shakes his head. "I've always worked hard in the classroom and my sport, but I felt this year that I needed to take another step, and I saw some of the great stuff my teammates were doing, Jamesha (Youngblood) with her 'Are you Smarter than a 4th Grader?' campaign and Keshia Baker and Eric Hersey working with the Bethel school district and I thought, 'hey, I can add something to this work." And so he has.
Another project Ben recently participated in was the first-ever co-build for Habitat for Humanity with Oregon State University. In spite of being fierce competitors on the field of play, UO athletes teamed up with the Beavers for a day of service, and created an attractive yard and playground for a family in Junction City.
"It was cool working with Oregon State rather than against them. It was neat to see the place looking kind of worn-down when we first got there and by the time we left it was a beautiful yard with a playground. Hopefully it will bring a lot of joy to whoever lives there," Ben said of the project.
Currently, Ben is working hard with O Heroes Director Matt Geschke and lacrosse player Maggie Kovacs to make the annual Quakin' Action better than ever before. Quackin' Action is a day when Duck athletes host students from the Springfield School District for a day of fun, play, and learning about healthy lifestyles. "I felt like 300 kids coming to the Mo Center is probably the biggest event, in terms of outreach, that we have all year. So that's an exciting opportunity to make an impact on a large number of young kids in the area."
As mentioned, Ben has now been approved as the committee chair of the O Heroes committee in SAAC which means he will also sit on the executive board along with Co-Directors Callie Wagner (lacrosse) and David Klech (track), and the other committee chairs; Eric Hersey (track, Athlete Unification), Melissa Gergel (track, Healthy Athletes, Healthy World), Monique Fuiava (softball, Communication), and Grace Kuo (acrobatics & tumbling, Senior Success).
"It's hard work at times," said Ben. "Kids are an impressionable age group. Especially the elementary range, so to see them learn something or to have an 'aha' moment, I think that's probably more important than even our performances on the track or playing field. The community is another place we need to be winners."
"I still have 2 or 3 years here," Ben concluded. "There's obviously a lot that O Heroes has already done, but there's a lot more we can and will be doing in the coming months and years, so it's an exciting time to be on board."
We thank Ben for his commitment to O Heroes and service work and from what it looks like there seems to be a pattern with him; whatever he's doing, he's in it for the long run.