Lehigh student-athletes are supporting elementary and middle school students in the Lehigh Valley as part of the The Community Outreach by Athletes who Care about Helping (C.O.A.C.H.) program.
In 1991, Lehigh student-athletes joined the community outreach program. Generations of Lehigh student-athletes have since filtered through the program with the goal of making a difference for the children involved.
Supervisor Roseann Corsi along with the program’s captains, senior cross country runner Jake Martinez, junior baseball pitcher Ryan Deom and senior soccer defender Bridget Casey create a year of fun-filled activities for local Lehigh Valley families.
All three athletes’ community service journeys started with Flight 45, a Lehigh leadership development program for athletes.
Students who are interested in joining the committee must apply for the position and go through an interview process.
“We only have room for a limited number of athletes, but we know we have many student-athletes that care so much and want to help others,” Corsi said. “We truly make a difference in the community.”
Deom’s passion for community service started in high school, but his involvement in C.O.A.C.H. allowed him to continue helping people and his community.
His favorite event is ‘Adopt-A-Family,’ when Lehigh athletes raise money to buy Christmas gifts for local families. The gifts include toys, clothing, gift cards and furniture.
Prior to the pandemic, holiday music filled the air, and Lehigh athletes dressed up in their uniforms with presents in hand.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there won’t be any in-person contact between Lehigh students and families this year.
The pandemic separated the families and athletes from their usual festivities, but Deom is looking forward to meeting families this spring during their Easter event.
“It’s been pretty challenging to navigate helping the community with COVID-19, but we have still managed to put on a few events for the kids,” Deom said. “It’s the most amazing feeling seeing the smiles light up the children and parents’ faces.”
Instead of their usual events, the C.O.A.C.H committee worked around the restrictions and planned outdoor events.
For Halloween, the program put together ‘Trunk-or-Treat’ in Fountain Hill, where Lehigh athletes handed out candy to elementary school children and played outdoor games with them. Another event included outdoor workouts and games for Freemansburg Elementary School children led by the athletes.
Casey joined C.O.A.C.H. because she valued helping other people and making a difference in other people’s lives.
Casey appreciates working with other athletes outside of her team. She said this has helped unify the Lehigh athletics program.
“The best part of what we do is seeing the children’s faces beam with smiles, and it just makes you feel so happy witnessing your help change another person’s life,” Casey said.
Martinez wants to spread awareness outside of the Lehigh athletics program and recruit more students to join in.
“We really want to focus on how we can make this not just a student-athlete thing, but get the entire student body population on board and excited to make a difference in the community,” Martinez said.
Martinez said he appreciates the bond he’s formed with other athletes while working with C.O.A.C.H.
The program gives athletes a reason to come together and build relationships outside of their teams.
“It’s really refreshing because you can do something you love with other people that have the same passion that you do, and you get to make real-life connections that wouldn’t be possible without C.O.A.C.H.,” Deom said.
Corsi admires the students’ ability to help their community amid COVID-19 restrictions and pressures of online classes. She said she credits the students for their compassion and dedication to getting involved with the community on their own.
“The Bethlehem community knows who we are, and the students have made strong connections with the community that will hopefully last for generations to come,” Corsi said.
Lehigh athletes are gearing up for the 23rd year of ‘Adopt-A-Family’ this winter.