Connecting to the Community

Maisie Mahoney fuses athletics with service

Cofounders Annie Marggraff, left, and Maisie Mahoney work with Kirby Schrand during a Bear Cubs Running Team practice. The club pairs student coaches from the Washington University track and field team with children on the autism spectrum.

Cofounders Annie Marggraff, left, and Maisie Mahoney work with Kirby Schrand during a Bear Cubs Running Team practice. The club pairs student coaches from the Washington University track and field team with children on the autism spectrum. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./WUSTL Photos

Every Sunday at noon, 40 Washington University track and field athletes herd an energetic crowd of 40 kids down Forsyth Boulevard to their weekly running practice.

Maisie Mahoney, senior captain of the track team and co-founder of the Bear Cubs Running Team, leads the group with Annie Marggraff, junior and fellow co-founder.

The Bear Cubs team connects WashU student-athletes with children on the autism spectrum and encourages them to exercise.

“The coach sat the track captains down last year and pointed out that there were 150 people on the track team, but there wasn’t any community outreach,” said Mahoney, a biomedical engineering major and former UAA Athlete of the Week who competes in the high jump, 60-meter hurdles and shot put. “It really got me thinking. Annie brought up her idea of the running club, and it took off from there.”

During the one-hour practice, the Bear Cubs do laps, drills, and games like relay and duck, duck, goose. WashU student-coaches are paired with Bear Cubs, cheering them on and pumping up the enthusiasm.

Joanne and Bill Abell, parents of Drake, a 7-year-old Bear Cub, said their son enjoys the club.

“Drake looks forward to it,” Joanne Abell said. “He has made a friend through this—Natalie. They even have play dates, which he doesn’t typically do. Running is a lifelong skill that he’ll take with him. The club is tremendous and helps build confidence.”

Drake is eager to talk about his progress since joining the Bear Cubs.

CJ Chin works with Kai Sanford during the Bear Cubs running club event. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./WUSTL Photos

CJ Chin, behind, works with Kai Sanford during the Bear Cubs running club event. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./WUSTL Photos

“I like to run,” he said. “I ran three races. The hot chocolate run, cupcake run and turkey run. The hot chocolate run was my favorite because of the hot chocolate.”

At the rate the club has grown, coaches, students and parents foresee expansion.

“We’re thinking about opening the club up to WashU club track athletes,” Mahoney said. “We’re also looking into spreading it elsewhere by outlining the programing in a document to pass on to the University Athletic Association conference. It’s a program that can be easy to sustain with the right resources, and we’re hoping that’s the case elsewhere. Continuity is a big thing for us.”

by Joanne Li


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