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DURHAM, N.C. – Duke’s First Year ACTION (Accountability, Commitment, Teamwork, Integrity, Opportunity, Now) program is a series of Personal Development and Leadership Education sessions to assist first year student-athletes with transition into Duke Athletics. All first year student-athletes are in small groups paired with upper class mentors from across all sports. Topics emphasize self-awareness, accountability, social decision making and serving others while incorporating and introducing campus resources. On Monday, Nov. 9, Duke Children’s Hospital helped with the last meeting of the Fall Semester. The theme was TEAMWORK and focused on SERVICE LEADERSHIP. 

Suzie Zeunges, Procurement Coordinator at the Duke Children’s Hospital, helped organize bringing in the Nelsen Family to share their story and experience with Duke Children’s Hospital as well as ask our student-athletes to help with a project. Rebecca Nelsen, 13, spoke to over 100 Duke athletes about how her little sister had to go through major surgeries and needed Duke Children’s services to live a healthy life after being born with two holes in her heart as well as Down Syndrome. She then explained to the group how she was inspired to do something to help other families receive services too if they needed help. So she began making bracelets with her symbol honoring her sister, a heart, on each one. She sold them with the goal of raising $100. Within the past two years, her “business” WHOLE HEARTED, has grown and she has made and sold more jewelry than she expected and thus far has given over $8,000 to Duke Children’s Hospital in honor of her family and little sister.  

After hearing the story and seeing her bracelets and other jewelry, Duke student-athletes worked together to make over 100 pieces of jewelry from necklaces and bracelets to earrings, as well as packaged them in bags with Rebecca and her sister’s story enclosed ready to sell. Joining teams, Duke athletes contributed to helping WHOLE HEARTED have more inventory to sell for the holidays for future funding for Duke Children’s Hospital as well as gain even more appreciation for serving others, giving back and using their athletic platform in a way to raise awareness of other issues and touch lives. 

“This ACTION meeting was a tangible way of helping people in need, a means of actually taking action to serve others rather than just talk about it,” said freshman track and field athlete Marcus Wright. “Serving other people I believe is what life is all about; it's something I know I will dedicate my life to in the future and the present.”

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