Service work a labor of love for Sandburg, Lincoln-Way North swimmers
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media September 3, 2012 8:54PM
Members of the Sandburg and Lincoln-Way North swimming teams work at the Bishop Fulton J. Sheen Kinights of Columbus Council's Annual Fishing Derby. | Tim O'Brien~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 5, 2012 6:03AM
Maggie Foley wasn’t much for fishing when she headed to Sandburg for high school.
Now a senior and a member of the swim team, Foley still isn’t a huge fan, but when the right opportunity presents itself ... well, she’ll at least give it a try.
“I don’t like to touch the fish,” Foley said with a smile. “I’m forced to touch the worms, but I won’t do the fish.”
On a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon in August, Foley and the Sandburg and Lincoln-Way North girls swim teams teamed up, working as volunteers at the Bishop Fulton J. Sheen Knights of Columbus Council’s Annual Fishing Derby.
The Derby is for mentally challenged adults who live in a group home setting. The Sandburg and North swimmers buddy up with the adults and help with the fishing effort.
“I love doing this,” Foley, attending her fourth derby, said. “It’s a really fun experience. Not everyone has a chance to work with special needs people, and it makes me happy working with them. They love doing this, they love seeing us and they’re fun to be around.”
The Sandburg swim team and coach Jane Caliendo have been a part of the event for the past 19 years. Sandburg students must complete 24 hours of community service over four years as a graduation requirement.
“The kids enjoy the fishing together, the camaraderie, the socialization, and they do a great job,” Caliendo said. “It’s been a really rewarding experience for them, and the adults remember them from year to year.”
A member school of District 230, Sandburg works under this year’s district mantra of “GREAT things and making HEALTHY choices.”
So at the pond by the old Orland Park Police Station on Ravinia Avenue on a Sunday afternoon, student-athletes from both schools devoted a little bit of their time to help out.
“It’s giving up your Sunday for the benefit of the community instead of sitting around, sleeping or on Facebook, being depressed about your teenage angst,” Caliendo said with a laugh. “They’re out here enjoying a beautiful day, so it’s a healthy choice and a win-win for everyone.”
Lincoln-Way North coach Kendra Will is a 2001 Sandburg grad who participated in the event as a student. The service made quite an impact, putting Will on a path to becoming a special education teacher. Once she became a coach at North, she did not waste any time asking her former coach if her team could join in.
“Just seeing someone’s complete joy from catching a fish, the emotion in their face, it gives you a different perspective on life,” Will said. “It’s inspiring to me. I want my girls to learn that valuable lesson.”
Lincoln-Way North, along with fellow District 210 schools Lincoln-Way East, West and Central, requires 20 hours of community service for graduation.
Many Southland schools stop short of a community service requirement for graduation, preferring simply to encourage such generosity of spirit.
Marist athletic director Bob Lim said students completed more than 50,000 hours of community service last year, spread among multiple opportunities.
Sister Dorothy Marie Solak, the Service Club coordinator at Marian Catholic, said 90 percent of Marian students do community service even without the requirement.
“We have a strong tradition of service, and we would rather have students do service because they want to do service than because they have to,” Solak said in an email. Many schools at least try to offer students opportunities to join the community service effort. St. Rita requires students to have one community service “experience” each quarter, offering chances to work with P.A.D.S. shelters and St. Baldrick’s, among others, even if only for an hour or two.
Shepard’s boys track team organized a 24-hour run to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Coach Daniel Ludwig said the event is again being planned for this year, though a benefiting charity hasn’t been chosen yet.
For Caliendo and her swim team, requirement or not, the end result is what counts.
“I’m so proud of the selflessness the kids showing coming out year after year,” Caliendo said. “They enjoy the experience. I beam with pride every year watching them.”