PacWest SAAC fall meeting unlocks surge of ideas for community engagement, Make-A-Wish
HONOLULU, HI – With the goal of improving service to their respective campuses, communities, and the conference, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) representatives from 10 Pacific West Conference institutions convened in Honolulu for the annual PacWest SAAC Retreat.
The two-day event was hosted by Hawai‘i Pacific University in Honolulu on Sept. 24-25 and focused on governance meetings, community service, ideas on how to help enhance SAAC involvement at each of the member institutions around the PacWest, and how SAAC organizations at each institution could share best practices and ideas to help each other as well as the conference.
Student-athletes representing a variety of sports from around the conference participated in the weekend retreat, including Hunter Hayden (Academy of Art); Bailey Banbury and Lauren Fielding (BYU-Hawaii); Bailee Sawyer (California Baptist); Kelly Costello and Dominque Cooks (Chaminade); Gabby Rodriguez (Dixie State); Taki Te Tekoi and Garrett Mitchell (Dominican); Micah Meyer (Grand Canyon); Nick Kanno and Jenna Decleene (Hawai‘i Hilo); Dustin Simcox, Dany Malley, Kim Pateman and Amy Provost (Hawai‘i Pacific); and Natellie Saia (Notre Dame de Namur).
Jaime Fluker, the NCAA associate director of student affairs, served as the keynote speaker for the event.
“Our weekend in Honolulu was amazing,” Saia, who is a member of the NDNU women’s basketball team, said. “Not only was it a great group of people to be around, but a beautiful location as well. Everyone was extremely enthusiastic and we really covered a lot of ground in terms of improving participation and the all-around success of SAAC. We shared a lot of ideas and have already taken them home and incorporated them into our own institutions.”
Bob Hogue, commissioner of the PacWest, also attended the event and continues to be excited about the growth of the SAAC programs in the PacWest.
"I continue to be amazed at the enthusiasm, energy and commitment that the PacWest Student Athlete Advisory Committee members have to their schools, the conference and the community,” he said. “This is the fifth straight year we have held the SAAC Retreat Weekend and each year it gets bigger and better.”
The success has not gone unnoticed by the NCAA, according to Hogue. “Jaime Fluker gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to what our SAAC representatives are accomplishing."
Barbara Hannum, the faculty athletics representative at HPU, echoed Hogue’s assessment of the weekend. She saw the camaraderie bloom among the SAAC representatives, but she heard the great ideas that resulted from good discussions at meetings that were highly productive.
"These student athletes reflect the very best of everything Division II stands for - passion, balance, resourcefulness, service, learning and sportsmanship,” she stated. “They collectively demonstrated these attributes throughout the weekend in every activity and each discussion topic, sharing energy and enthusiasm for ideas to improve the SAAC impact on each campus and across the PacWest. I am so proud of them all, and we have a lot to look forward to."
One key result of the SAAC Retreat was a definitive raising-of-the-bar for the Make-A-Wish© Foundation. The collaborative goal is to double the PacWest contribution to the tune of $20,000.
The plan that is being implemented is entitled Make a Swish for Make-a-Wish that involves student athletes securing pledges and sponsors for each swish made at men’s and women’s basketball games throughout the season.
This common-goal event also will feature an individual school competition as each institution’s SAAC committee attempts to take top honors in terms of dollars raised.
The SAAC Retreat also produced innovative ideas about community engagement initiatives, ways to improve visibility and promote athletics on campus, and how to entice faculty and other student organizations to attend more athletics events.
“The SAAC retreat was a great experience for me,” Micah Meyer, a member of the Grand Canyon men’s golf team, said. “I enjoyed meeting representatives from the other schools in the PacWest. I was really encouraged by the discussions we had and am really excited to start implementing some of the initiatives we discussed. I am especially excited about expanding our Make-A-Wish program both at Grand Canyon and throughout the entire conference.”
The student-athletes stayed at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel and arrived on Friday, Sept. 23, in time for a dinner and social gathering at the iconic Teddy’s Bigger Burgers.
On Sept. 24, the group performed community service at the Honolulu Zoo by assisting with clean-up following a Friday evening gala event at the facility.
After a short time to relax on the beach in Kapiolani Park, the student-athletes met to discuss a variety of issues on Saturday and afternoon and Sunday morning. They also had a chance to take the Catamaran Sunset Sail from Waikiki Beach where they were served dinner.
HPU SAAC President Dustin Simcox provided introductions while representatives from each institution supplied brief descriptions of SAAC activities on each of their campuses. Discussions also included the PacWest Community Engagement Award, as well as new NCAA legislation and the SAAC position.