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Championship game draws Irish faithful

Aubrey Butts | Wednesday, January 16, 2013

While the Notre Dame and Alabama football teams prepared for their faceoff in the BCS National Championship, squads of volunteers from the opposing communities set rivalries aside to plant a community garden in the Overtown neighborhood of Miami.

Katie Rutledge, service programs manager for the Notre Dame Alumni Association, said the project originated from the desire of the student and alumni community to demonstrate the Christian values of charity and gratitude.

“It puts a proper perspective on life,” Rutledge said. “Talking to the volunteers, [University President Fr. John] Jenkins said that the project was a victory for both sides. This rings true, especially now after the loss. The service project and impact will be a win for the community and those who spent time in service during their Miami trips.”

Planting season only began recently, so volunteers could not immediately plant a full garden in Overtown. However, the timing did not stop the group from leaving a mark in the community.

“Only a few vegetables were planted in the beds – lots of parsley,” Rutledge said. “However, a subset of volunteers planted seedlings into tiny vessels, and once the seedlings are strong enough, they will be transplanted to the raised beds. We also planted flowers to beautify the lot. Roots in the City procured red and white and blue and yellow flowers to represent the two schools.”

Around 300 Notre Dame and Alabama fans, alumni and students participated in the planting activities Sunday in addition to the volunteers provided by Roots in the City, the Miami-based organization dedicated to community development, healthy eating initiatives and inner-city beautification as stated on the non-profit’s website.

“We had a lot of help from guests at the Camillus House, a shelter which also partners with Roots for a work program,” Rutledge said. “Many of the men work in the gardens on-site at Camillus, and I think their presence added to the experience for everyone. The men were very welcoming and understanding of people like me without green thumbs. They did a lot of backbreaking work, moving 3000 cement blocks and more.”

Inspired by the service initiative’s success, Rutledge said she hopes the alumni organization will continue its partnership with Roots in the City.

“The CEO of Camillus House is a Notre Dame graduate, so he was very supportive of the project,” she said. “We hope to start a [Summer Service Learning Program] for students at the Camillus House.”

While the event required extensive planning, Rutledge said the opportunity to have an impact of the community made it worthwhile.

“We knew that we would have a great turnout,” she said. “Keeping 300 people busy for three hours – especially Domers who always come ready to work – takes a lot of preparation.”

This year’s urban garden initiative continues an Alumni Association tradition to sponsor a service project preceding bowl games, Rutledge explained. She said she hopes the service work will continue going forward regardless of where Notre Dame finds itself in the postseason.

“It’s an honor to be in charge of providing service opportunities for alumni at these big athletic events,” she said. “There’s an obvious desire to serve among alumni and students, as evidenced by the turnout.”

Contact Aubrey Butts at [email protected]


The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Championship game draws Irish faithful

Kristen Durbin | Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Despite the disappointing outcome of the BCS National Championship on Jan. 7, Notre Dame students and fans brought South Bend to South Beach for an entire weekend to support their Irish against the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.

Tens of thousands of Notre Dame fans descended on the greater Miami area in the days leading up to the game, including a star-studded Jan. 5 pep rally featuring such Irish legends as Lou Holtz, Joe Theismann and Mike Golic that attracted an estimated 20,000 fans to South Beach.

Junior Pat Wall said the Notre Dame presence in Miami was impossible to miss.

“Walking up and down the main street in South Beach … was just like walking through the quad on campus,” Wall said. “You knew someone everywhere you would go. The amount of Notre Dame fans in Florida that week was unreal. It seemed as if we moved South Bend to South Beach and I had the time of my life.”

Senior Ellen Carroll, who spent a week in Florida with her friends, said Irish spirit was rampant throughout the greater Miami area.

“It was like the entire school had an extra spring break in Miami,” she said. “The crowd was huge everywhere you went and the number of Notre Dame fans was overwhelming. I hadn’t realized before going down to Miami just how large the Miami area is … but you couldn’t go anywhere without running into people you knew and Notre Dame fans who wanted to talk to you.”

Carroll said she and her friends attended the Jan. 6 concert on South Beach featuring country group Dierks Bentley and hip-hop artist Flo Rida.

“They shouted out to the crowd to see if there were more Notre Dame or Alabama fans in the audience, and the Notre Dame fans were easily twice as loud as the Alabama fans,” she said. “It was pretty incredible to be able to travel so far from our school … and feel the same sense of family and school pride that we always have here on campus.”

Sophomore Christian Knight said the beachside concert was a highlight of his trip to Miami.

“While Flo Rida isn’t exactly the most musically talented artist, just being on the beach with over half the Notre Dame student body was unforgettable,” he said.

Carroll said the experience of supporting the Irish in Miami reinforced her love for the University and the members of its family.

“I never thought that I would have the chance to [watch Notre Dame play in the national championship] as a student here, and I was so proud to be able to tell people I met that we were students at Notre Dame,” she said.

Knight, who received a ticket to the game as a birthday present, said his favorite part of the championship experience was the gameday activities leading up to the ultimately ill-fated matchup against Alabama.

“Being able to sleep on the beach, attend several Notre Dame tailgates and attend the national championship game all on the same day … was one of the most unforgettable experiences I will ever have,” he said.

Wall said the extended gameday allowed more time to tailgate with friends and Notre Dame alumni.

“It was impossible to move 10 feet without running into someone I knew, had class with or just recognized from around campus,” he said. “There were so many alumni tailgating who loved to talk … about their experiences at Notre Dame, and I loved getting to hear about their college experience.”

Regardless of the final outcome of the game, Knight said he “would relive that weekend 100 times over.”

“There is nothing better than treating winter break ‘domesickness’ with a weekend in South Beach with all my closest friends from all across the country,” he said.

Carroll, who attended the game after receiving the ticket her younger sister won in the student lottery, agreed the experience was memorable whether the Irish football team was victorious or not.

“I’ve never experienced such an exciting pre-game atmosphere before,” she said. “The game itself was pretty painful to watch after the first couple minutes, but I would 100 percent go again if given the chance.”

Contact Kristen Durbin at [email protected]