By Matt Aujero, Catholic Volunteer Network Recruiter

RESPONSE books.  Check.  Big banner and Catholic Volunteer Network table cloth.  Check.  Pens, brochures, candy, sign-up list.  Check.  Winning attitude.  Double check.  I look over at Caitlin and say, “It’s GameDay.  You got your game face on?”  “Game face!  Rawr!” she says, then laughs at how unintimidating her face must have looked.

Caitlin and I have been preparing, practicing for this day eight hours a day, five days a week.  It was still the pre-season, but this GameDay was real, it still counts, and it was the first one.  And we were on my home court, my alma mater, The Catholic University of America.

Back-to-School: Our first match was on my ol’ stomping yards—CUA.

CUA was celebrating its 125th Anniversary by kicking off its 125,000 hours of service year, and we were invited to table among other service groups to the entire student body that had attended a campus-wide Mass at the Shrine.  The Mass let out, and it was off to the races.  But it started slow, only freshmen at first were coming to our table.  It’s the first week of school—these kids are more worried about making friends than what they might be doing after they graduate.  I looked around and saw a huge group of seniors eating their lunch on the grass.  Change of game plan:
“OK, Caitlin, here’s what we’re going to do.  See that big group over there?  I’m taking the books and to them.  Can you be the home base at the table?  K.  Cool.  Wish me luck!”

 But the moment I stepped out of the tent, it was like reunion-city.  I got welcome backs from past residents (freshmen who were now seniors, what?) from my Conaty student minister days (shout-out love to my co-minister Kelsey Flynn!), tackles from past brothers from Esto Vir, and huge hugs from my Filipino FOCUS family.  I felt loved, I felt welcomed, I felt great.   The questions went something like “Matt!  How are you??  Welcome back!  How was Costa Rica?  What are you doing here?” 

Purple haze: All set up from banner to tablecloth

And my answers went something like, “I’m doing great.  Got back from Costa Rica.  Loved it.  Actually love it so much I wish everyone could do a year of service.  Which actually leads to what I’m doing here,”  I whip out the RESPONSE book I’m holding.  “I’m actually handing these out.  Here’s one on the house (they’re free.)  This directory lists and organizes all of the nearly 200 volunteer programs out there in all 50 states and all 100 countries.  And what’s cool about them,” (as I take one and flip to the back) “is that it organizes the programs by location, length of service, and interest.  For instance, when I went to Costa Rica, I found my program through here, and actually the Web site an organize it all for you, too.  If anything it’s a good bathroom read.” 

Then if they’re further interested, I might add, “After doing it, I’m a believer in this.  I got to find out more about who I am.  I wouldn’t have found out that I want to be a high school teacher now.  And from my experience and from every volunteer I’ve talked to, it makes us better at what we do now today.  Do you guys remember Kelsey Flynn?  She’s a full-time RN in California, right, she’s got the job, but you know what the other month she came to me and said, ‘Matt, I want to do service.’  What?  Kelsey Flynn who already has the job?  But she still wants to do service?  Something to think about.”

After I finish my spiel, I ask about them, because I’m genuinely interested in what they’re doing now.  And I’m so proud of them, these seniors and juniors who I once saw as freshmen.  They’re big and grown up now into fine men and women.  Wow.

Two hours later, I went back to the table to Caitlin to clean up camp.  “I’m beat.”  “Yeah, me too,” she says.  “Like, my voice is out.  I’m talked out.  Can you imagine doing this four to five days a week, every week for two months?”

We just laughed.  Thank You God, for our first GameDay. Catholic Volunteer Network recruiting: 1-0.  Here’s to the beginning of the season.
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