Women’s basketball connects with Boys & Girls Club of Tanana Valley


Jamie Foland

Fairbanks, Alaska – Back in early January, the Alaska women’s basketball team continued its efforts in the community by heading over to the Boys & Girls Club of Tanana Valley to visit with the youth of Fairbanks.

Members of the team played games with the kids to keep them active in sports. The Nanooks split up the children by age with the younger kids participating in dribbling relay races and knock out. The older group was a tad more competitive and challenged the team to a game of 5-on-5.

“It’s fun for us and for them,” senior forward Jacqueline Lovato said. “We love the opportunity to teach kids how to play and they really enjoy getting to play against us rather than just amongst themselves. It was a pretty good game we had going on with the older kids so anything basketball-related is exciting for us.”

The team made such an impression that day as a few of the children the Nanooks played came out to the Patty Center for their game on Jan. 19 against Northwest Nazarene. Afterward, the players made it a priority to go and visit with the kids who came out to the game.

“We have some new fans and we saw a few of them at the game [on Jan. 19],” junior guard Marissa Atoruk said. “They were excited to watch us play and told us good job.”

“We want to get out and reach the community to let people know our interest is not only in athletics but also the youth and anyone we can impact in the community,” Lovato said.

Head coach Cody Burgess-Bench challenged the program at the beginning of the year to participate in at least one community service event each month. Thus far, the Nanooks haven’t disappointed, and in some cases do multiple activities per month.

“We set out the goal at the beginning of the year to do at least one community service event a month,” Atoruk said. “Every community service event we do, we have a blast. It says a lot about our team because it’s not that we have to do it — we want to do it.”

“It’s really important that we get out in the community,” junior forward Sam Thornton said. “People see that we’re not the stereotypical student-athletes that people think of when it comes to basketball players and then they come support us at our games, so it’s great.”

In an e-mail to Coach Burgess-Bench, Sarah Nichols, site director for the Boys & Girls Club of Tanana Valley, had this to say about the team’s visit:

“I just wanted to extend my warmest thank you to you and your team for their visit to the Boys & Girls Club on Monday. All of the members were so excited to have the ladies there and the games that they played with the club members were so much fun. I know that the teen boys who played the ladies will remember that game for a long time!”

To learn more about the Boys & Girls Club of Tanana Valley, visit the organization’s Facebook page or the website for the entire state of Alaska

Also, to keep up with community service events that Alaska student-athletes participate in, visit our Nanooks in the Community page on our website.