Video feature: Princeton Varsity Club connects student-athletes to Trenton families

Sept. 15, 2014 noon
Weapons of Mass Construction Jack Berger

Through the Princeton Varsity Club, Princeton student-athletes spent a day with families from HomeFront for a picnic that included activities such as playing sports and face painting. Men's ice hockey team member Jack Berger of the Class of 2014, shown above, talks in this video about the experience of giving back to the community that supports Princeton teams all year.

Video stills from the Princeton Varsity Club

For the sixth annual Weapons of Mass Construction (WOMC) event, the Princeton Varsity Club teamed up with HomeFront and Mathematica to host a picnic at Rosedale Park in Pennington, New Jersey. The goal was simple: have fun and connect with the community while providing an escape from the harsh realities that homelessness and poverty present to thousands of Trenton-area families.

Tiger student-athletes representing eight varsity sports volunteered to make the day special for the 150 people that came out to the Mother's Day-themed picnic in May. Volunteers served in a variety of roles, including cooking lunch for the families and interacting with young children through games and activities such as basketball and face painting.

"Seeing the smile on a kid's face after watching an arts and crafts project come to life or seeing the butterfly painted on their face in the mirror for the first time were the best parts of my day," said Shirley Wang, a member of the Class of 2015 and the women's swimming team.

For the last 20 years, HomeFront has dedicated itself to ending the cycle of poverty and homelessness in central New Jersey, providing resources and the basic necessities for underprivileged families dealing with transient housing. Established in 1968, Mathematica is a policy research company that is devoted to social policy evaluation, in hopes of finding the best solutions to promote well-being and reduce poverty and homelessness.

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"I mainly just hope that the kids had fun, and were able to forget about the stresses and challenges that they face in daily life," said Jack Berger, a member of the Class of 2014 who was on the men's ice hockey team. "I also hope that they feel like they can better relate to us. At their age, I never could have imagined myself as a student-athlete at Princeton University, so I hope that it can give them motivation and inspiration to work hard to achieve their goals."

WOMC serves as a platform to connect Princeton student-athletes across all sports to collaborate and continue to understand the important of service in their own lives.

"Not every school has a varsity club like we do here at Princeton, and it is important that we take advantage of it," said Mike Washington Jr. of the Class of 2016 and men's basketball team. "Events like Weapons of Mass Construction allow student-athletes to come together. We all play different sports but here we aren't basketball, football or hockey players, we're Princeton Varsity Club teammates."

A photo gallery from the event is posted on the Princeton Varsity Club website.