COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio State University Department of Athletics is collaborating with Soles4Souls again, sending 10 student-athletes to Bolivia for a life-changing service trip. The travel party, which also includes three full-time Athletics staff members and Soles4Souls representation, will be making an impact by distributing needed footwear in local communities while also being immersed in the Bolivian culture. The educational volunteer adventure begins Sunday, August 7 before returning to Columbus on Saturday, August 13.
A previous group of Buckeyes ventured to Jamaica alongside Soles4Souls in May. Check out their blog chronicling the journey. Student-athletes will submit blog entries while in Bolivia as well, giving Buckeye Nation a glimpse through their eyes.
Take a look below at the 10 Buckeye student-athletes determined to make a difference for those in need during the upcoming week in South America:
Andrea Ballinger, from Columbus, Ohio, was a freshman on the Buckeye women's tennis team that won Big Ten regular season and tournament titles and earned the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2016.
"I hope to gain perspective and I would like to make an impact on someone's life."
Chelsea Harpool, a junior from Orlando, Fla., is a two-year member of the women's rowing team. In her first season with the Buckeyes in 2015, she rowed as part of Ohio State's Big Ten champion Third Varsity Four, which helped OSU to its third consecutive B1G team title. Harpool is a 2016 Ohio State Scholar-Athlete.
"I want to meet new people and experience a new culture while serving others."
Anna Kirk is a three-year starter in the infield for the Buckeyes who in 2015 set career highs with a .333 average, 10 home runs, 40 RBI and 39 runs scored. A native of nearby Groveport, Ohio, she is a two-time OSU Scholar Athlete and Academic All-Big Ten selection who is majoring in sport industry.
"I want to get out of this trip a sense of being and why I am so privileged to have the things I do. A new perspective on enjoying the little things."
Kyle McKinney earned OSU Scholar-Athlete honors following his freshman campaign in 2015-16. The rising sophomore set PR's of 6.86m in the long jump and a 14.31m triple jump during his first collegiate season. The native Ohioan from Dayton came to Columbus with back-to-back Top-5 long jump performances in the 2014 and 2015 OHSAA Division II state championships.
"As a Spanish minor I'm incredibly excited to embark on this trip. I look forward to serving those in need and gaining a greater sense of the Bolivian culture as well as creating long-lasting memories along the way."
Matt Mendez is a Business major from Mount Pleasant, S.C. He is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and helped life the Buckeyes to the NCAA Quarterfinals this season with an overall record of 33-3. He posted a personal singles mark of 10-3 and doubles record of 18-2 during the 2016 campaign.
"I expect to have a great experience traveling to a foreign country for a good cause."
Sade Olatoye, a freshman from Dublin, Ohio, is a throws specialist on the Ohio State track and field team. Already ranked No. 5 in the OSU record book in the indoor shot put, Olatoye finished sixth in the weight throw for the Buckeyes at the 2016 Big Ten Indoor Championships. Olatoye is a 2016 Ohio State Scholar-Athlete.
"I expect a great learning experience, to be able to help impoverished communities, and to restore some type of happiness to their present day living conditions."
Matthew Smidt, who hails from Smithtown, N.Y., is a goalie for the men's lacrosse Buckeyes. He saw his first collegiate action in 2016, playing in two games and allowing just one goal. He is a two-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete.
"I want to be able to build relationships with different people and to be able to explore something new by going to a new country."
Bridget Vilbig is a four-year letterwinner with six starts in her Buckeye career. She was also is a finalist for the YRL Unsung Hero Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of two college lacrosse student-athletes (one male, one female) who demonstrate dedication, integrity, humility, hard work, community service, leadership, kindness and sportsmanship.
"I want to get a better understanding of how people in Bolivia live."
Jalen Washington, a junior co-captain catcher on the Ohio State baseball team, is from Twinsburg, Ohio. Washington was named Most Improved Player last fall and was named a captain this past Big Ten Tournament championship season. A Johnny Bench Award Nominee, he has played in over 80 career games and made 60+ starts.
"I look to gain some perspective and meet and get to know new people."
Josh Wick, a redshirt sophomore from Upper Arlington, Ohio, played in eight of 11 events for the men's golf program this season, including seven tournaments as a member of the Buckeye lineup. He notched a top-5 individual finish at the 2016 Robert Kepler Intercollegiate.
"I want to help people and experience something new."
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