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Local kids treated to Pitt game

Theresa Civantos | Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thanks to an anonymous donor, 100 children in the South Bend area have free tickets to see Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team play Pittsburgh on Feb. 10.

Three quarters of the 100 tickets went to area children involved in Lead-ND, the campus organization that takes Notre Dame volunteers to different schools across South Bend to help the children develop leadership skills. The other 25 tickets were distributed through Children’s Campus, which treats severely emotionally disturbed children.

And the children will get to see an important game for the Irish.

Pittsburgh is ranked No. 14 in the country and is an important Big East opponent for the Irish. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.

“It just happened by chance,” said junior John Wanek, an executive board member for Lead-ND. “We’ve done these trips before and I called the ticket office with this beautiful desperate speech to ask for tickets. But it turned out it didn’t even matter what I said. They told me that some donor had bought 100 tickets and he wanted them to be used for kids. It just kind of fell into our laps.”

Lead-ND consistently relies on donations to fund its programs.

“We acquire all our funds through different grants and donations. We really work off what people give us,” Wanek said.

Random acts of generosity like this donation are really not that rare at Notre Dame, said Stephanie Menio, the director of operations for women’s basketball.

“Things like this actually happen quite often,” Menio said. “We have a ‘Take a Kid to a Game’ Day where fans donate tickets to under-privileged kids. We work with the Girls’ and Boys’ Clubs and Big Brother, Big Sister. Any place that’s in need of tickets and can’t really afford them, that’s who we target.”

This season alone, Menio said, over 200 donors have provided more than 3,000 tickets to youths in need of them.

As for the Lead-ND kids, the trip to see the women’s team play in the Joyce Center is one of several they’ve enjoyed – including a visit to the mayor of South Bend – but this one is just for fun.

“We do field trips throughout the year. They usually incorporate service or learning,” said senior Antoinette Bronesky, a Lead-ND volunteer. “This one is purely for fun but it is intended to show students what a college environment is like and where the volunteers spend their time. We hope it gives them something to aspire to.”

And the children are excited about this particular field trip, Bronesky said.

“The kids love the Notre Dame athletes. To them, they’re like gods,” she said.

Lead-ND works to inspire under-privileged students to become leaders themselves, rather than merely give them aid.

“We’re trying to equip the kids with leadership skills so they can help out in their community,” Wanek said. “We’re helping the kids to be leaders in South Bend.”