JOSEPH CITY, Ariz. – The NAU Athletics Department strives to inspire Northern Arizona. On Friday, the NAU women's basketball team spread the joy and spent the evening with a group of children in the season of giving at the NAOMI House in Joseph City and truly inspired many.
"The evening was full of great energy," said assistant coach Jamie Rauchwarger who organized NAU's visit. "The girls made the food and created memories that will last a lifetime for all who were present."
Joseph City is a Navajo community located roughly 80 miles east of Flagstaff. The NAOMI House is a home for Native American youth who have come from difficult family backgrounds.
Regardless of their backgrounds, Friday night was one to remember for the 20 kids visited by the Lumberjacks. While shy at first, the children loosened up as the team engaged them in games such as Jenga and mancala. Following dinner that the team prepared and served, the night ended with a spirited game of dodgeball.
"They were just normal kids who wanted to have a lot of fun, and I felt like a kid again for a night" senior Rene Coggins said. "It meant so much to bring that joy to them, especially to kids who don't necessarily have a great family life."
Of course it would not be the holidays without gifts, which the team brought aplenty. Toys and more were exchanged, and while the holiday cheer was palpable, even more importantly on Friday, NAU provided a much-needed lift to each child's life.
"It was nice to be able to connect with kids who have come from the reservation," said Coggins, who herself is Navajo. "It was a special moment for me personally to give back to a community where I'm from and make an impact like that. I don't think I would have that opportunity if I wasn't at NAU, so it was really special."
While the holiday season is a time to celebrate with loved ones, it is also a time to make a difference. After the Lumberjacks' visit to the NAOMI House, there is no question that Joseph City is a better place and a lot brighter.