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Hand In Hand

Northwestern University and the Evanston Community.

Last week, I attended my first NU Men’s Soccer game. My youngest son’s AYSO soccer team was invited to meet the players before the game and then walk out with them before their match against Northern Illinois University on Wednesday, October 12th.

If you’ve never been to a sporting event at NU’s Lakeside Field, it’s worth the small price of admission. I’m told the season pass is a brilliant idea for families looking for reasonable, local entertainment. A Family Plan (2 Adults, 3 kids) is $80 for 13 home games, and parking is free. And individual adult season pass is $40, and an individual youth season pass is $25. There are still 3 home games left: 10/19 vs. Loyola at 7pm, 10/23 vs. Wisconsin 1pm, and 10/30 vs. Indiana 2pm.

There’s something magical watching young players stand in awe near their older, more experienced counterparts, and the greeting between the two teams last was priceless.

My son’s expression when a college player took his hand and walked with him across the field under bright lights in front of a small but growing crowd was one I’ll never forget. The NU players were so kind to their young fans, and I’m told this sort of exchange happens more often than many Evanston residents realize.

I smiled as an enthusiastic group of children and their chaperones filled the stands just after the 7pm game started. The logos on their t-shirts indicated they were part of an enrichment group from Chicago, and their vocal encouragement for the NU players was contagious. Surely, the players on the field appreciated every whoop and holler from their eager fans. 

(Speaking of enthusiasm, check out this video from the NU Men’s Soccer AYSO Clinic/Wee Wildcats Camp).

So how did my son’s AYSO team end up on the field with NU players in the first place? Believe me, I wondered that myself. At first, I only knew that a mom on my son's team had coordinated the visit. I came to learn that the woman, Betsi Burns, was, until last year, the Assistant Director of Athletics/Director of Student Development with Department of Athletics (a position she held for 15 years) and is now Assistant Dean of Students with the Division of Student Affairs.  According to the Student Affairs website, Betsi is responsible for “off-campus student life, health and wellness checks, and serves as the divisional liaison to athletics”. 

Is it creepy that I’ve just Googled a mom on my son’s soccer team to gather this information? My apologies to Betsi. It's just that she deserves huge kudos for bringing Northwestern University students and Evanston residents together in such a meaningful way.

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