AMES, Iowa – More than 40 Iowa State student-athletes brightened the Christmas season for children at the Beloit Residential Treatment Center by participating in the Adopt-an-Angel program Dec. 10. The ISU student-athletes were given lists of preferred gifts selected by the children themselves. Cyclone athletes took these lists shopping and bought presents for the kids. The gifts were given out by Santa Claus (Iowa State offensive lineman Seth Zehr). The childrens’ appreciation was affirmed by their excitement and tell-tale smiles.
The Beloit Residential Treatment Center in Ames is a state-licensed, 24-hour PMIC (Psychiatric Medical Institution for Children) and RTS (Rehabilitative Treatment Services) provider. The highly structured environment provides children from ages five to 15 with severe mental and behavior disorders the necessary treatment to turn their lives around.
The Adopt-an-Angel program is several years old. The event was coordinated with the Beloit facility by the Iowa State Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC). The coordinator of the event for 2006 was Cyclone swimmer Lindsay Wiesner, a junior from Eden Prairie, Minn. After purchasing the gifts, Iowa State student-athletes wrapped each present before the arrival of the children in the Center’s gym. Sunday was the day before the start of first semester final examinations at ISU.
“Something like this gets you in the holiday spirit and takes your mind off of finals,” Wiesner said. “It is a great stress release. The whole process is really uplifting.”
Zehr is 6-6 and weighs 300 pounds. The Fort Dodge native is still quite trim and took some needling from fellow athletes about not having quite the girth that usually is thought of when imagining Santa Claus. The fact that he could get the costume on at all is quite amazing. Zehr, who has already earned a bachelor’s degree in finance, is working on a master’s of business administration at Iowa State. He will also get married in January.
“It was a great experience,” Zehr said. “The looks on the kids’ faces when you call their name makes you really appreciate what is truly important in your life. The kids made it a great experience.”
SAAC had started the holiday season by distributing Thanksgiving baskets to needy families. Now before final exams, members of Iowa State’s 18-sport varsity program worked to make a difference.
“The children were so excited,” said Beloit’s volunteer and Recreation Coordinator Julie Van Hove.
Van Hove underscored the impact made on the children through the special effort undertaken by the Cyclone student-athletes.
“We are so grateful to Iowa State for doing this,” Van Hove said. “I think both the athletes and the children get something special out of this.”
Of that there is no doubt.