Women’s Soccer Builds Bridges Between Generations
During their time off the field, the 2016 Bethel College Women’s Soccer team has devoted part of their fall season to building bridges between generations in South Bend. It’s a partnership with St. Paul’s Senior Living Community that connects residents with players through weekly letters.
Assistant Women’s Soccer Coach Tanya Zickefoose, who also serves as the Independent Activity Coordinator at St. Paul’s, thought up the idea for the program.
“The pen-pal [writing] concept is key because it provides a means of more intentional connection that I feel has become a bit foreign in this social media/cell phone era,” Zickefoose says.
The partnership began with a preseason luncheon at St. Paul’s, where players were greeted by residents sporting Bethel soccer shirts with their respective player’s number on the back, courtesy of Zickefoose.
Residents have been delighted with the opportunity to connect in this way with the younger generation, especially Libby Karns ’70, who is also a Bethel alumna and donor.
“I think the pen-pal program with Bethel’s soccer team is an excellent way for us at St. Paul’s and those from Bethel to learn from each other … It is a good way to foster and grow inter-generational relationships,” she says.
Karns is paired with senior nursing major and Pilot forward Lindsey Seifert. The two found a profound connection when they discovered they both shared a calling to attend Bethel, and their pen-pal relationship has grown throughout the weeks. Seifert was able to call Karns on her birthday, and Karns took the time to send a “special congratulations” when she recently learned of Seifert’s engagement.
Seifert notes what an incredible encouragement the residents have been for the team. She also finds the program adds a really valuable element to the team as a whole.
“Adding that 10 minutes after practice just to take time to write … unifies us more because we’re doing something good for the community as a team. It puts everyone in a happy mood.”
It is evident from these testimonies that this program benefits both generations. This has been Zickefoose’s intention all along.
“College students can learn so much from the generations that have gone before them, and the residents enjoy the ‘fullness of life’ that young people bring,” she says.
On Sept. 14, St. Paul’s residents attended the Women’s Soccer home game against St. Xavier University. They were seated in a canopied VIP section, acknowledged during the game and had a chance to visit with their Bethel pen-pals after the game. Another in-person meeting is planned for the players’ fall break.