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Saturday, Sept. 30

Redbirds promote Just Read          Send a link to a friend 

[SEPT. 30, 2006]  NORMAL -- There is no question that the school year is in full swing, and for Illinois State student-athletes that means getting out to local elementary schools to participate in the Missouri Valley Conference's community outreach program, Just Read. Several Redbirds made their way out to Sugar Creek Elementary School in Normal on Wednesday to share their love of education and reading with area children.

One of the many student-athletes to visit Sugar Creek was Illinois State sophomore Ryan Lay, a track and field and cross country runner, who felt that the experience was just as fulfilling for the ISU student-athletes as it was for the children.

"This is my first time participating in Just Read and I loved it," said Lay. "Being with the kids is great. It speaks highly of ISU and the athletics department, and it's just one great way that we give back to the community. We like to share our stories of how we came up, got our education and participated in sports. I think its inspiring to these kids, and they get a sense of responsibility on how to do both academics and athletics. These kids really look up to us as members of the community and as athletes. This is just a small way that we can help them."

Illinois State senior softball player Stacy Birk agreed, explaining how these events help to motivate the aspiring student-athletes.

"I think it really makes their day," said Birk. "The kids get so excited when we come in. We always get a lot of questions, and we help them to understand that reading isn't all that tough. It makes reading fun for them. I think the kids look up to us as role models, so when they see us coming in here, telling them about our sport and how we like school, it helps to motivate them to want to succeed. Today I asked them, ‘How many of you want to go to ISU?' and they all raised their hand. That was really exciting for me to see and makes me feel like we really are making a difference."

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Started in 1998, Just Read is co-sponsored by State Farm and has Missouri Valley Conference student-athletes visiting local elementary schools, reading books and relating the importance that reading has made in their lives.

Illinois State student-athletes have a number of Just Read events on their calendars, with upcoming dates on Oct. 12, Oct. 25 and Nov. 5 at elementary schools across the Bloomington-Normal community.

This event is one of the first community service activities of the year for the Illinois State athletics department. ISU student-athletes will participate in a variety of other events throughout the 2006-07 school year, attempting to better their record-setting mark of 2,300 community service hours set last year.

[News release provided by Kristen E. Greenstreet, media relations graduate assistant, Illinois State Athletics]

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