Pups look to hang with the Dawgs

By Terrance Peacock

Many athletes may fall in love with the sport they play from admiring the person they look up to the most: his or her favorite athlete.

However, at a young age, only a few may have been given the chance to meet that athlete and spend time with them.

Saluki Athletics will give 10 young fans a moment to do just that at the last home football game of the season with “Every Dawg Has Its Day.” The program will give 10 fans, kindergarten through fifth grade, an opportunity for a memorable gameday experience during the Nov. 16 game against Illinois State University.

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These activities include meeting their favorite football player, taking a tour of Saluki Stadium and having the opportunity to take part in the Saluki Walk prior to the game.

The 10 winners will be drawn Tuesday, and the winners will receive a phone call from their favorite player notifying them they were chosen.

All proceeds from “Every Dawg Has Its Day” will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Carbondale.

This is the first year “Every Dawg Has Its Day” has been implemented and the idea came from senior linebacker Juan Carlos Avila, who wanted to leave a mark on the football program after his career was cut short.

“The idea came over the summer,” Avila said. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to play football anymore because of all the injuries that I have suffered, so I tried to figure out a way I can give back to the community.”

Avila said he pitched Coach Dale Lennon and Athletic Director Mario Moccia the idea and said they loved it and hope to do it for upcoming years as well.

“They said we could do a trial run for the last game and if everything works out we could implement it for all the home games for 2014,” Avila said.

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Avila said he has had a number of people also help out with this event, including senior women’s tennis player Anita Lee.

“We have done everything from coming up with a flyer for the event to reaching out to people,” Lee said. “I have been talking to the Boys & Girls Club and having them help fundraise the event.”

Lee said she is proud to be a part of the program.

“When (Avila) told me about the event, I was super excited about it because it sounded great because it involves the community and it involves kids,” Lee said. “Inspiring kids to become athletes, which I think has really changed my life, is really important.”

Associate Athletic Director Kristina Stepps oversees the student-athlete advisory committee, for which Avila is vice-president. Stepps said the football players are honored to have an impact in children’s lives.

“The student athletes are always excited to spend time with local kids that look up to them as role models, Stepps said. “So it become a great experience for both sides involved.”

Stepps said the selection process is simple.

“Parents or guardians that are interested in filling out a registration form for their children can fill it out and listed in the form is their top-three favorite football players,” Stepps said. “You can pay $3 for one ticket to be entered in the drawing or $5 for two tickets.”

Along with implementing “Every Dawg Has Its Day,” Avila was honored Wednesday with the Missouri Valley Conference’s Leadership and Service Award, which honors the achievements of exceptional student athletes.

Avila has been involved with a number of fundraising and awareness events during his time at SIU and said he hopes this event can help children experience game day from an athlete’s perspective.

“I just want them to be involved in the excitement that goes around for a game day to experience what we experience, and all the fun that we have being athletes,” Avila said.

Registration for “Every Dawg Has Its Day” ends Tuesday. To complete the registration form, visit siusalukis.com

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