May 5, 2010
SEATTLE - Despite the spitting rain and the frigid chill in the air, the Washington women's basketball team turned out to help a cause in need.
Third- and fourth-graders at John Muir Elementary school in the Mt. Baker neighborhood were thrilled at the visit from the Huskies, who lent their time to the school's efforts to raise money for an upgraded playground, as well as a local sleep-away camp. As part of the event, John Muir held a walk-a-thon, where the kids ran laps to promote their cause célèbre. Joining in the fun were Kristi Kingma, Sarah Morton, Jeneva Anderson, Sara Mosiman, assistant coach Loree Payne and director of operations Wingate Smith, who all provided encouragement to the runners.
The "Playground Project" is designed to help improve the existing playground at the school and make better use of the space for children and local families in Mt. Baker.
Being student-athletes, the Huskies could speak to how important play and exercise is to young children. Kingma, who grew up just outside of Seattle, believes it's important to donate her time to these causes.
"We do a couple of these things every year," said Kingma, who logged the most community service hours in 2009-10. "It's really fun because I grew up in this area, and so did a lot of girls on this team, and it's just fun to give back. (The kids) love Husky athletics."
The kids, of course, were thrilled to be in the presence of Division I athletes. When the team arrived, there were plenty of "oohs" and "aahs" that greeted them. And when the kids began running laps as the rain poured, it was Kingma and her teammates who joined them, logging in a couple of miles.
Officials at John Muir could not have been more thrilled about the Huskies' participation.
"They love it," said Lara Macklin, the PTA president at John Muir. "These kids don't get to see college student-athletes up close. So this is a huge thing for us. There's so much excitement with them having someone (like the Huskies) here to cheer them on."
There are a couple of Husky connections to the school as well. Macklin is neighbors with Lisa Oriard, a Husky Legend and former letterwinner on the women's basketball team. Ex-forward Emily Autrey, who was the same class with Payne at UW, is a teacher at the school.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Playground Project at John Muir can do so at the school's Web site (http://www.seattleschools.org/schools/muir/playground.html).