Hesston College's athletics department is encouraging its student-athletes to make some noise both on and off the court this year with the launch of a new initiative that will be in effect at all Lark home athletic events in 2017-2018.

Already, several members of the athletics department and many of the Hesston teams volunteer their time around the community (helping with Schowalter Villa, the Special Olympics, etc.), but athletic director Rob Ramseyer noted discussions within the department over the past year often focused on making the most of those efforts around the community.

"We had a lot of people doing a lot of good things to serve the community, but as we talked about it we felt like we could really have a significant, positive impact on an organization if we really, more intentionally focused our efforts," Ramseyer said.

Discussing what organization to get behind, the Mennonite Central Committee made sense for the Mennonite school and Ramseyer noted Hesston College has partnered with former employee and alumnus Kate Mast to organize a donation drive to help collect goods for the hygiene kits being put together by MCC to help refugees worldwide who have fled their homes because of disaster or war and are struggling to afford necessary supplies.

Collection bins will be set up at all home athletic events through the 2017-2018 season and fans are encouraged to bring items like toothbrushes, nail clippers, towels and soap for the hygiene kits.

"We're hoping we can connect all over the place," Ramseyer said. "We certainly hope it's something the entire community can rally around and get engaged in."

Ramseyer noted the initiative has already struck a chord with many not only in Hesston, but in surrounding communities as well, as he pointed out that Remington High School's volleyball team recently made a trip out to a Larks volleyball match to contribute to the donation efforts.

Once donations reach "critical mass," Ramseyer said the items will be taken to MCC and put together in kits — a process that could resonate even more in the recent aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Student-athletes will help in putting together the kits as well, as Ramseyer noted the goal was for it to be an all-inclusive experience in getting student-athletes involved with the community.

"We wanted it to be beneficial to our athletes, so our hope is they engage with others to come to events, to bring goods and then also on the packing end," Ramseyer said.

Initiatives like the donation drive are not new to Hesston College, but the scope of this year's drive is a first, and Ramseyer said the athletics department is working to foster collaboration and participation among all Lark teams to maximize the good done.

Some teams have already taken up that torch, like Hesston College women's soccer. Coach Bryan Kehr has been providing bars of soap for each starter, who then place them in the collection bin during introductions at home games.

Additionally, Ramseyer said the athletics department is encouraging visiting teams to get in on the effort as well. As many home contests as the Larks will have across all sports this season, even small donations can contribute to something bigger.

"Every little bit helps, and that's kind of what we're saying," Ramseyer said. "We're only four or five home dates into our games, but just a couple people bringing stuff to a couple games, when you add that up through soccer and volleyball — and then basketball, baseball and softball — that can really add up and help some people in need."

For a full schedule of Hesston College home games in 2017-2018, visit www.hesston.edu/larks/