Sep 8, 2017, 9:06 AM EST
Note: This story appears in the Notre Dame-Georgia game day program.
A large contingent of Notre Dame football Monogram winners who donned the iconic gold helmet for Lou Holtz will reunite this weekend for the annual Lou’s Lads Foundation reception. Memories will be revisited and a good time will be had, but the gathering of former players and senior football managers isn’t just to share stories and catch up.
Lou’s Lads Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization, is dedicated to preserving and supporting the legacy of Coach Lou Holtz and his players while providing a platform to provide financial assistance for the educational needs of underprivileged individuals.
“When they were putting Lou’s Lads Foundation together, a group of guys went to talk to Coach Holtz about it,” Randy Kinder (’97, football) says. “They said this was modeled off of what a group of former players of Coach Frank Leahy had done many years ago. Coach Holtz said if you’re going to do this in his name, you have to add something to it. It has to be a way where you can further what you learned from this University and what he hoped he was able to instill in us: faith, family, football team.”
Something that stemmed from that vision was a partnership with the Bread of Life Drive (BOLD). BOLD is an annual food drive that was started in 1992 by the Notre Dame Club of Staten Island. The event is held in the spring, which is a time of year when food pantries have been depleted of food donations made during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
Beginning in 2016, the Monogram Club joined forces with BOLD and the Lou’s Lads Foundation to assist with the drive. It was a logical choice for the Club to support football Monogram winners and Coach Holtz, who is an honorary member of the Club and recipient of the organization’s highest honor, the Edward “Moose” Krause Distinguished Service Award.
“The Bread of Life Drive has been a wonderful thing, and to get the Monogram Club to join in has really grown it by leaps and bounds,” Kinder says. “I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of seeing this really get into the fabric of who we are as Monogram Club members, but also to help this grow through the Club and further the mission of our University.”
In 2017, there were 191 Bread of Life food drives in cities across the United States and around the world. Over 300,000 items of food were collected to help people in need.
Multiple generations of Notre Dame alumni, including Monogram winners from several different Fighting Irish teams, are BOLD volunteers. Tom McFarland (’86, soccer), CEO and owner of EnCore Interiors and EnCore Composite Structures, spearheaded a food-gathering effort with his staff in California.
“Notre Dame does a wonderful job of engraining the service mission mentality,” McFarland says. “Most people, and certainly our EnCore employees, want to make a difference, have an impact and be a force for good in their community.”
The Monogram Club is a resource for its members who strive to remain committed to the service mission that was part of their undergraduate experience.
“We’re helping to compliment and support various service outreaches of the athletics department,” Kate Markgraf (’98, soccer), chair of the Monogram Club’s service committee, says. “Through the Club’s different offerings, we are able to create opportunities for Monogram winners to give back to the community, but also develop bonds with people from different generations who were also athletes at Notre Dame.”
The Monogram Club seeks to support a variety of service opportunities so its diverse membership can partake in something they are passionate about. A service event this weekend is the Game Day Chase, which benefits the Kelly Cares Foundation. The Club sponsored any of its members who wished to take part in the festive races that begin and end at Eddy Street Commons across from the Notre Dame campus.
“Running the Game Day Chase last year reminded me of the thrill of race days during cross country season,” Heidi Witte (’09, cross country/track), who also is a loyal BOLD volunteer, says. “With the excitement brewing for the Notre Dame-Georgia game, this year’s race will be a great way to kickoff this special game day. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to run alongside fellow Monogram Club members – and Fighting Irish fans – while supporting a great cause.”
Current and former Notre Dame student-athletes have also replaced their gold helmets with hard hats for the athletic department’s annual Habitat for Humanity house build. They have joined forces with coaches, administrators and support staff to construct houses located near campus.
Additionally, Monogram winners have participated in the Food Bank of Northern Indiana’s Food 4 Kids Backpack Program. Last year’s program provided weekend food bags to 2,000 students in 40 schools in Elkhart, LaPorte, Marshall, Starke and St. Joseph Counties.
From tackling opponents to tackling hunger, Monogram Club members team up to give back.