NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- The Monroe Mustangs women's basketball team from New Rochelle spent Wednesday afternoon with approximately 60 children from the South Side Mission in Peoria, Ill., on their day off from the national tournament.
Gary Axelbank, director of Sports Development and Information at Monroe, said that while the team gets a lot of buzz for being two-time defending national champions, it's great to add community efforts to their legacy.
"They showed that they're champions as people, able to bring joy and inspiration to others," he said. "It made me especially proud to be part of the Monroe family."
"This was an awesome day," said South Side Mission Assistant Executive Director Sheree Lyles told Axelbank. "This gives our kids hope because many of them get discouraged because they don't think that college is in their realm. But now they know that all things are possible."
Every member of the team joined in as head coach James Robinson Jr. and assistant Samera Marsh directed the kids in fun and instructional basketball drills, a round of Simon Sez, some music and dancing, and general togetherness and merry-making.
The Mustangs also distributed free caps and t-shirts to all the kids and then autographed the souvenirs.
"This is what the 80-year Monroe College legacy of supporting communities is all about," Axelbank said. "We are committed to it on our campuses in the Bronx and New Rochelle, N.Y., but it doesn't stop there. If we have a chance to do something positive, then it's not hard to get the Mustangs involved no matter where it is happening."
As a special treat, Monroe has invited the children to be their guests at their second round game against Mesa (AZ) in the NJCAA Division II Women's Basketball National Championships on Thursday evening.