Coach Riepma’s Message Continues to Resonate with Today’s Students
That’s what happened when the National Collegiate Athletic Association presented its 2018 Division II Award of Excellence to Northwood in recognition of Go MAD Day. Go MAD is a day-long community service extravaganza that challenges the Northwood family to “Go Make a Difference.” It was the vision of beloved football coach Pat Riepma, who died of cancer in 2015.
“I wish everyone in this room would have had the chance to meet Pat Riepma,” Northwood Dean of Student Affairs Andy Cripe told a gathering at the NCAA Convention in Indianapolis as Northwood’s award was announced. “He used to tell us in staff meetings that we have some of the greatest jobs on Earth – we have the opportunity to make an impact on young people every single day. And he would say, ‘If that doesn’t get you jacked up, you’re in the wrong place.’”
When Riepma passed away, Cripe and others who knew and admired him were determined that Go MAD Day would become part of the fabric of Northwood University. The third installment took place Nov. 3, 2017, when roughly 800 people, including 347 student-athletes from all 18 Northwood varsity sports, joined forces to perform more than 2,100 hours of community service.
“There was one group of five students, they called themselves the Hedgewood Helpers, who signed up to rake yards,” recalled Campus Volunteer Manager Rebecca Rekeweg, who organized the day’s projects. “They kept finishing the yards and calling to ask for more projects. A two-hour project that started at 2 p.m. lasted until 6:30. They just kept raking.”
Other volunteers collected food donations and packed them into meal kits, assembled bags of personal care items for local shelters, performed heavy-duty landscaping work at a campground that services community organizations, sorted donations to local nonprofit groups, and lots more. Many of the projects were coordinated with United Way and other local nonprofits, to make sure they met specific community needs.
“For many students, Go MAD Day becomes part of who they are. Many take it to the next level, using their Northwood-learned skills to help their own communities,” said Emily Korn, who works with Rekeweg to make the day go smoothly. “I’ve never met anyone who has walked away from a volunteer experience unhappy. You leave and you just feel a weight off your shoulders, knowing you’ve done something good.”