April 12, 2006

Women's Golf Inspired By Make-A-Wish Recipient

April 12, 2006

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - So often in life we do good deeds but never quite get to understand the full effect they have on those that benefit from them. Last Wednesday evening, the Santa Clara University women's golf team got to see first-hand what a difference their Birdies For Wishes program makes as Sarah Schatzman, daughter of former SCU football player Andy Schatzman, shared with the team her fight against Wegener's Granulomatosis and her family's experience as the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Sarah her wish.

Sarah is 16 years old and is battling a rare form of vasculitis called Wegener's Granulomatosis. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Wegener's Granulomatosis, or "WG," as it can be referred to, "is an uncommon disease, in which the blood vessels are inflamed. This inflammation damages important organs of the body by limiting blood flow to those organs and destroying normal tissue."

The Birdies For Wishes program is a charity drive run by the Santa Clara women's golf team each season. For every birdie recorded in competition by a Bronco during the season, friends, family and fans may make pledges. Pledges of 25 cents, 50 cents, $1 or $5 per birdie are accepted in addition to one-time contributions. The team has raised over $7,000 over the last two year's alone, and proceeds are donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

It was the Make-A-Wish Foundation that helped create this connection between Sarah and the women's golf team. Her father, Andy, a former football player for Santa Clara and a current member of the Bronco Bench, met women's golf head coach Polly Schulze last summer and shared Sarah's experience. Sarah's experience was so moving that Schulze made arrangements for Sarah to meet the team and share her experience with them.

"I wanted Sarah to speak to the team so that the girls could understand that there is a face behind the cause [of the Birdies For Wishes] program," Schulze said. "Raising money for this wonderful cause really means more when you can connect it with a human being."

Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Sarah was granted her wish and along with the rest of the Schatzman family was ferried to Busch Stadium in St. Louis to meet the St. Louis Cardinals major-league baseball team. One point that Sarah made clear to the team was that her trip was so special that she and her family were able to forget about the illness and the fight against it and that she felt like any other teenager would who was meeting her favorite players.

"It was very inspiring for us," said sophomore Jenny Nelson. "Having a personal experience with her and seeing what our work and birdies go towards makes it all the more encouraging to participate in this drive."

Being able to see their charitable labor grow to fruition was therapeutic for the SCU women. Meeting Sarah and hearing her story helped further solidify the team's feeling that they were doing something right.

"It was very rewarding to have her come and talk to us," said junior Megan Stoddart. "It not only made everything that we have been doing even more worthwhile but it also made our team proud to know that we are doing something to help other people."

Added Nelson: "In our lives we've all known somebody who's known somebody who has a terminal illness, but meeting someone who has actually had a wish granted was an experience."

While Sarah's story helped further inspire the Broncos to surge onward with the Birdies For Wishes program, they are also able to put their play and their contributions into perspective when compared to the battle that Sarah and the rest of the Schatzman family wage everyday against WG.

"I hope the team got that through us raising money for Make-A-Wish, we can help a child escape the fight against their disease," Schulze added. "Our contributions and what we do is small in comparison to Sarah's fight."

Commented Stoddart: "It made us all realize that a three-foot putt is rather small in the scheme of things compared to what Sarah is going through."

With the Broncos ever closer to reaching their fundraising goal in the 2005-06 season, Sarah's experience and courage should only inspire them that much more to reach higher and higher for 2006-07 and beyond.