FORT CAMPBELL, Ky., - Members of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) staff spent time making new friends at the Pinnacle bowling alley in Clarksville, Tenn., Aug. 27, 2013.
The Rakkasan staff volunteered with a special needs athletic league known as Buddy Ball as a way of giving back to the community.
"The local community has been great to the Rakkasans over our past deployments," said Maj. Dave Conner, the executive officer of 3BCT. "This event was one way we could show our appreciation to the community and help a great organization at the same time."
Buddy Ball was hosting its final bowling night and the Rakkasans were eager to help in any way possible.
“I was excited to volunteer and encouraged my peers to do so as well,” said Pfc. Talijel McNeill, a Laurinburg, N.C., native, and human resource specialist assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company.
During the event, they assisted with lane set up, awarding trophies, and providing cheer support to the athletes, but all agreed that through the experience they did more learning from the program than volunteering.
"I believe the Rakkasan staff and the athletes both appreciated the interaction and grew from this experience," said Conner. "We made several new friends at the Buddy Ball event."
"I learned so much from my new friends at Buddy Ball, especially how to always be joyful and appreciative," McNeill added. “One athlete, James, was so positive. No matter what happened on the bowling lane, James would say ‘I’ll get it next time’ then spit a rap to make everything all good. That motivated me.”
Buddy Ball is a 501(c) 3 organization that hosts an athletic league providing an environment where sports are played by people with physical or mental disabilities regardless of the limitation.
The Clarksville based organization started in 2001 and runs completely off of volunteers and donations.
The director of Buddy Ball, Margaret Davis, shared her “overwhelming sense of pride when the 3rd Brigade began to arrive (at the event). For so many to take time out of their day to spend time with our athletes was very heart warming.”
The Rakkasan staff intends to continue its newly formed partnership with Buddy Ball.
“Ideally we will conduct at least one event per month,” said Conner.
However both Rakkasans and Buddy Ball athletes can’t stop talking about their connection and it is likely many will volunteer as frequently as possible.
"I can’t wait to continue to volunteer with Buddy Ball," said McNeill, who is no stranger to volunteering around the Fort Campbell community. "Next month they will be playing baseball and I will be there."