The Case Western Reserve University tennis team has taken a U.S. Army soldier deployed in Iraq under its collective wing.
Nate Schauwecker, 20, from Avon, Indiana, doesn't attend Case, but members of the women's and men's tennis team have "adopted" him by collecting items for care packages and are in regular communications with him.
"We wanted to do a fundraiser, but didn't want it to just be for our benefit," said head coach Nancy Rahn, whose niece, Stephanie, is a friend of Schauwecker's. "I also wanted the team to perform some kind of public service, so I thought it would be good to combine both."
The Spartans collectively decided on raffling off baskets filled with items from area businesses. The monies raised would then go toward their spring trip to Arizona and for care packages sent to soldiers in Iraq.
It was not until Rahn asked for a donation from her sister, Cynde, that the parameters changed from soldiers to a single soldier.
"I was getting on e-mail and hitting up family members up for donations," Rahn said. "My sister said she would take 12 tickets (at $1 apiece), but also asked if we could have the care package sent to a specific soldier."
Rahn and her team thought about the request and took it one step further. They decided to "adopt" Schauwecker so they could send care packages and communicate with him regularly.
Following the death of his brother in Iraq in June 2006, Schauwecker was sent to Iraq last fall. He was already in training at the time of his brother's death, but, according to Rahn, his will to fight for his country did not diminish.
"Nate wanted to go because his brother always talked about all the good they were doing, but that people just don't know about it because the press focuses on the negative," Rahn said. "He feels like he is carrying on with the work his brother started."
The honorary Spartan's job in the Army is to find and dismantle bombs. He trades American candy to Iraqi youths for information on where the insurgents are, and where bombs may be hidden.
"This doesn't come down to politics," Rahn said. "It doesn't matter if you agree with the war or not. The bottom line is we have guys over there like Nate who need our support and that's what we're trying to do."
Additionally, the Spartans are raising funds for their spring trip to Arizona. Brook Park native and Case senior captain Karyn Rafalke headed up both teams' efforts—everything from taking care of the baskets to scheduling people to work at the raffle table and sell tickets.
"The team was extremely supportive in getting donations and advertising the raffle with posters and chalk drawings all over campus," said Rafalke. "It ended up being a great fundraiser. We are able to relate to the soldier because he is so close to us in age and we appreciate his commitment to our country."
Items such as Spartans gear, toiletries and candy will be sent in Schauwecker's first care package this month.
"This is something I wanted the team to do," Rahn said. "We play a sport that is predominantly about individuals, so we have the tendency to be a little self-centered and not really focused on others."
Those wishing to make contributions to future care packages for Schauwecker may do so by contacting Coach Rahn at email@example.com.
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