Badger goaltender making impact off field

first_imgOn the field, Michele Dalton led the way for Wisconsin by posting 11 shutouts on the year. Off the field, she’s been a leading member in the effort to combat local hunger.[/media-credit]Every year, a new batch of prospective college students face the task of writing an essay as part of their application. Often times universities pose a question similar to the effect of “How can you influence the community here at X University”?For student athletes, the expectation of impacting the community may be a bit lower than the average student, as they are bound by scholarship to spend sufficient amounts of time training and performing on the field when out of class.But that is not congruent with what redshirt junior goaltender Michele Dalton, of the UW women’s soccer team, has in mind for the student-athletes of Wisconsin.Dalton, who led her team to a third place finish in the Big Ten – earning a second team All-Big Ten selection in the process – is the founder of the Red and White Hunger Fight, the largest campus-wide food drive in the University of Wisconsin’s history. After three years, the RWHF has collected a grand total of 6.5 tons of food to support local residents during the Thanksgiving holiday and is backed by 21 of UW’s sports teams, over 75 student organizations and numerous other institutions in the area.“I think it’s astounding. I think at times we get caught up in looking at athletes as just athletes and not student-athletes and how they help the community,” women’s soccer head coach Paula Wilkins said. “I think she should be highly commended for the time she spends to help other people. It’s truly an amazing thing and it affects Madison, Wisconsin, the women’s soccer team, and the athletic department.”“One person can make a difference and I think Michele is showing that.”After coordinating a food drive for a class at her high school in Mt. Prospect, Ill., Dalton came to UW in her freshman year surprised to not find an official campus food drive other than the one organized during homecoming.Dalton wanted to do something similar at UW and began contacting various organizations in the area to begin something she hopes can one day become one of the school’s biggest traditions.That first year, in 2007, was a humble beginning, but it did not deter her efforts, which saw the RWHF launch in 2008.“I met with some people and pretty much everyone I talked to called me an idiot and (said) that I was crazy,” Dalton said. “I really had no clue [what I was getting into].”One of the first people Dalton spoke with was Anne Whisner of the Morgridge Center for Public Service, a meeting which Dalton refers to as “striking gold” as the two still remain close friends to this day.The two worked together to forge collaborations with the Homecoming Food Drive, the Community Action Coalition, WISPIRG, the athletic department and many others to set the food drive in motion for November of 2008.“Those are the kinds of phone calls I like to get,” CAC Food and Gardens Division Manager Chris Brockel said of Dalton’s invite. “For as big as the campus is, sometimes students don’t get involved in their community as much as you’d like to see so it was really heartening to see that.”According to Brockel, the RWHF has served as a valuable community service as the recession calls for more households to donate to.“We’ve gone from, a couple years ago, 85,000 household visits to, probably this year, 125,000 – not something we’d like to see,” he said.The RWHF mode of operation consists of athletes and student volunteers dropping off grocery bags at the doors of houses all over Madison, which are to be collected after seven days, hopefully full of donations.In their inaugural year, the RWHF collected four tons of food, according to Whisner, and with such a positive intake in its first year Dalton can’t help but imagine seeing the program continue to grow into a true campus-wide effort and tradition someday.“I sort of wanted a ‘If you’re coming to UW, you’re doing the Red and White Hunger Fight around Thanksgiving’ type of mentality,” Dalton said. ” We’re a long ways from that but each year we get more people involved.”Wisconsin fell to Marquette in penalty kicks on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA tournament while tomorrow the RWHF will conclude its collection of donations as volunteers will gather at Ogg Hall to help pack boxes of food for its recipients.For a goalie, there’s always extra pressure to perform since their mistakes are easier to notice than any other position. Still though, Dalton has been able to juggle the soccer season with that of the RWHF and schoolwork over the past three years.“I keep them all completely separate,” Dalton said. “When I’m on the field I’m in the moment and I’m playing for my teammates.”As her redshirt junior season ends, Dalton has already begun to concentrate on the RWHF’s long-term sustainability after she graduates. The program is already transitioning into another chapter, as is Dalton, who hopes to continue her humanitarian efforts after school.“I’d really actually like to work for the Red Cross and coordinate disaster relief efforts overseas or something like that,” she said. “Using my leadership ability to continue helping people will definitely always be a part of my life.”last_img

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