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sports equipment
Pictured from left to right are (back row) Michael Susaneck, Zach
Etheredge, Trent Lockwood, Manuel Maldonado, Capt. Lori Walker,
Ric Gonzales, Rudi Cantu, Kim Chavez and Amanda Nikolenko.
Kneeling in the front row are Josh Wilson, Marshal Davis, Chelsey
Chapman and Janeille Nickels.

UTSA athletes donate equipment to Iraq soldiers

By Brad Parrott
UTSA Associate Director of Intercollegiate Athletics

(Nov. 8, 2007)--When Ricardo Gonzalez, executive director of UTSA P-20 Initiatives, offered his assistance to Captain Lori Walker, he never dreamed that the Air Force nurse would wish for gloves, bats and balls. With the help of the UTSA baseball and softball teams, the sports equipment is on the way to Iraq.

"I met Capt. Walker on a business trip," Gonzalez said. "She had photos of Iraq and the work that they are doing in helping our troops stay alive. I told her in departing if there was any way I could assist to please contact me."

In an e-mail from Iraq, where Walker was stationed as a critical-care transport team nurse, she wrote to Gonzalez, "You asked if there was anything that we could use to let you know. We have started a softball league on base in Iraq and could use some gloves. Thank you for your offer."

Gonzalez and P-20 Initiatives program manager Manuel Maldonado work with the UTSA Athletics Department on an outreach program called Dream Runners. Maldonado accompanies UTSA student-athletes to area middle and elementary schools where they challenge youngsters to stay in school, graduate and go to college. The program is funded by a $90,000 grant from the Valero Texas Open.

When Gonzalez and Maldonado forwarded Walker's request to the Athletics Department, the baseball and softball teams jumped into action. Players called home and asked for their old gloves and equipment to be sent to school. After a couple of weeks, two large duffle bags of equipment and a bucket of softballs and baseballs were ready to be shipped to Iraq.

"This equipment will be very important," Walker said. "Baseball and softball are things the troops can do together. It's a great way to keep spirits up and work off the stress that we encounter daily. This equipment will be put to good use."

UTSA Athletic Director Lynn Hickey was pleased to have the opportunity to assist the troops and was proud of the baseball and softball teams' response. "It's our mission as an athletic department to create an environment where our student-athletes can be successful academically, athletically and socially," Hickey said. "It's important that we teach our student-athletes to be good students, athletes and citizens. It's heart warming when they respond to a community need like this."

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