More than a roar: Havocs bring good cheer to community
By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
A group of Havocs huddled outside Cypress Hall Wednesday night, looking far more discreet than usual. Their faces weren’t painted, their voices were low and only their purple shirts identified them.
More than 20 members from Grand Canyon University’s student cheering section split into three teams and left the campus loaded up with pizza, purple pride and Lopes gear while hundreds of at-risk children and youths awaited their arrival at six homeless shelters in the Valley for what would be the final “Havocs with Heart” event in the first year of the campaign.
At one of the six shelters, they made dinner mean just a little more when they sat around the dining table with five homeless youths and shared pizza in the spirit of friendly conversation and laughter and answered hundreds of questions that youths had about the University.
Glorianna Vercruyssen, a youth shelter staff member, said every youngster at the shelter wants to feel cared for, and she was happy to see their faces instantly light up when the Havocs arrived.
But the youths were even more thrilled to learn that they would have an opportunity to attend a basketball game in the near future.
“For the Havocs to come out and help, the students get to be more educated about what GCU is about,” Vercruyssen said, laughing as one youth ran around with a Lopes banner. “They want someone to talk to. They want to be listened to. So it’s encouraging to have someone from the outside come in.”
Combining their Havocs with Heart visits with busy schedules, homework and tests, more than 1,000 students took part in the campaign, which encourages them to step out into the local community and donate their time and energy.
“Havocs with Heart really wanted to set themselves apart as a student section that gives back to the community and not just as wild, crazy fans that paint themselves up for each game,” said Christina Wagner, the Arena’s marketing manager and one of the main organizers of the new program.
Three years ago, the Havocs student group had only 168 members. In October, students looking to be more involved Havocs were able to purchase all-access pass memberships for $20, which included Havocs gear and entry to a pre-game tailgate before every men’s home basketball game, including food, paint, music, backyard games, guaranteed tickets and priority entrance and seating.
But, technically, every student at GCU is a Havoc, Wagner said.
From visiting the homeless, to supporting children with cancer, safe animal refuge and hosting a prom to students with disabilities, the Havocs have served five nonprofit groups around the Phoenix area during the semester.
Jonathan Allegra, a freshman, said it was great to be part of the Havocs with Heart team.
“We are not only the student section, we like to help other people, too,” Allegra said.
His friend Daniel Schultz, a freshman, agreed.
“Every school has a big student section that shows up at all of the games and goes crazy and has a good time, but it’s nice that Havocs with Heart reaches beyond that,” Schultz said. “We want to do something in the community and not just focus on having fun. We want to give back to someone outside of our school and outside of ourselves. It’s nice to be a part of a group that gets to go out and say, ‘Hey, we are from GCU and we want to help you.’”
The Havocs volunteered at HopeKids, Arizona Animal Welfare League, Phoenix Rescue Mission, Best Buddies and Tumbleweed Center for Child Development.
Each nonprofit will receive between 300 to 600 tickets to a selected game along with a publicity video of each Havocs with Heart service project, Wagner said.
“It’s kind of win-win in a sense that we get new fans in the Arena watching our game, and we also want to use the basketball game to raise awareness for their cause and for the work they do,” Wagner said. “I would say the Havocs are hosting them because they have these relationships with them that they formed earlier in the year, and now they are showing them our community.”
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.