For the past 12 years, the Wolverines have held the Michigan Softball Academy, an annual event that helps raise money for the American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” initiative. Cumulatively, over $1.3 million has been raised through the team’s efforts.
Thursday night, the academy will be held virtually for the second year in a row. Typically, participants go through clinics for hitting, pitching, catching and everything in between. Afterwards, there is a social mixer with the Wolverine players and all the participants.
“They have a chance to use their platform to contribute to the community,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “And I think it’s important that in athletics we all find our way to do that, to contribute, not just have people contribute to us.”
Though the academy will be held virtually, the players are still giving lessons on softball. But this time, there’s a twist — it’s cooking themed. For example, senior pitchers Meghan Beaubien and Sarah Schaeffer are throwing pasta at the wall to demonstrate throwing a pitch, and some players are going to be showing off their favorite meals.
The virtual format unlikely to halt donations. Last year, nearly $100,000 was raised amidst the pandemic-affected event.
“I was so overwhelmed that we still had this virtual academy,” Hutchins said. “We raised a couple dollars short of $100,000 in the middle of the pandemic when everything was shut down. And it was just people who are so supportive of us in what we’re doing.”
Each year the event is spearheaded by an elected chairwoman. This year Angelique Chengelis, Michigan beat writer for The Detroit News, is taking on that role. Additionally, there is a silent auction held on the Saturday after the academy, and the proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society.
Registration and donations for the event are still open, and it is open to whoever wishes to participate.
“We’re still trying to raise money, but we’ve been very sensitive to the fact both last year and this year that times are tough for a lot of people so we’re really emphasizing raising hope and awareness,” Hutchins said. “(We) recognize that not everybody can give maybe what they used to, or they’re not all capable, but you can give us anything. That’s meaningful. And we just are trying to keep the message alive.”
The day after the academy, the Wolverines will take on Rutgers in a Friday night matchup in Ann Arbor for the team’s annual Pink Game. The game is a continuation of Michigan’s effort to raise awareness and fight against breast cancer, taking on the official color of breast cancer awareness as the theme of the game.
“A few years back, Lloyd Carr asked me ‘Why do you do it? I mean as you’re heading into the Big Ten race and the Big Ten tournament.’ I said: ‘I cannot think of a better time for us to stop and take a moment.’ ” Hutchins said. “You have our kids be focused on something bigger than themselves and something that isn’t softball.
“And because ultimately, we always talk about leaving the program better than you found it. I actually just really believe that everybody’s purpose in life is to leave this world better than you found it.”