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Senior Mary Kate Drews and her adopted ath­letes, senior Javon Barr (left) and senior Alex Anschutz, for the fall 2018 season. Courtesy | Mary Kate Drews

The sun files up the sky, warming the late fall day. The stadium shakes as both teams line up for the opening kick-off. The student section is packed with screaming stu­dents in white Otter’s army shirts.

For some in the crowd, though, this isn’t just a football game; it’s a chance to support the Charger that they have “adopted.”

The Adopt a Charger Program is designed so that stu­dents may adopt a student-athlete to support throughout their season. 

Mary Kate Drews, a senior working in the ath­letic department, helps organize the program.

“People on campus get to ‘adopt’ a Charger, so they get a shirt with a new design every year and their Charger’s last name and number on the back,” Drews said. “It’s a way for stu­dents to get to know ath­letes or vice versa, and get people to come to their games.”

The program, t‑shirt and all, costs only $6, and proves to be nothing but rewarding for both the adopter and Charger.

Grace Fer­guson, a sophomore working in the ath­letic department, described her past year of adopting Chargers from both the football and men’s bas­ketball team. 

“It’s a lot of fun to watch them play, espe­cially if you’re already friends with them,” Fer­guson said. “I know lots of people tend to adopt people they know, but you can absolutely pick someone random. I’ve heard plenty of stories about people who become great friends by picking a random athlete to adopt.”

Gwen Buchhop, com­munity rela­tions coor­di­nator for the ath­letics department, explained one such instance.

 “I was assigned number 34, Jed Thompson. He was my Charger the whole time he was on the team, and I just went to his wedding two weeks ago,” Buchhop said. “It sounds silly and kind of trite, but it’s a good way to meet a new friend. I would not have gone to Jed’s wedding if I hadn’t adopted him.”

The program has grown to become quite large in recent years, with about 60 Chargers being adopted for each of the fall, winter, and spring seasons. This boost in involvement has come in large part from ath­letic department pro­mo­tions as well as ads in the Student Activ­ities Board newsletter

“We’re going to launch the announcement in the newsletter soon to adopt bas­ketball players as well as indoor track ath­letes,” Buchhop said.

Through the ded­i­cation of Drews, Buchhop, and others, the Adopt A Charger Program has become an amazing expe­rience for hun­dreds of stu­dents every year, and has made itself a staple of every sports season. Fer­guson describes the fun she had during her first year in the program, as well as the potential for other stu­dents to make lasting mem­ories.

“The program is a unique oppor­tunity for stu­dents to love on their fellow stu­dents and encourage and appre­ciate them,” she said. 

Stu­dents can now reg­ister to adopt an athlete for the winter in either bas­ketball or track.