While most college students spend the summer working jobs back home or simply enjoying their time away from classes and exams, three members of the Austin College men's basketball team took on a more ambitious project, forming a non-profit charity organization called The Extra Step.
The Extra Step was conceived by sophomores Cody Meyers, Josh Dickerman, and Jeremy Swisher, who came up with the idea on a team trip with head coach Rodney Wecker to Costa Rica over the summer. The 'Roos competed against several teams from the area but were also able to take in some of the local culture, as well as working with a nonprofit organization that funds a day care for underprivileged children.
"These underprivileged kids are going through so much at such a young age," said Meyers, who serves as president of The Extra Step. "It really is a unique feeling, and I am blessed to have the opportunity to be able to help these kids."
The children that the 'Roo basketball players worked with in Costa Rica all came from single-mother homes, and without a father figure in their lives. Meyers, Dickerman, and Swisher took such a sense of enjoyment and purpose from their time with these underprivileged children that they decided to continue their work when they got back home to Texas.
The foundation that the trio set up works to assist children with life-threatening diseases, as well as their families, including families dealing with cancer. Meyers, Dickerman, and Swisher want to assist families through the arduous process of facing difficult realities as they battle disease.
"Cancer is something that hits very close to my heart," said Dickerman, the vice president of the organization, who like Meyers and Swisher has seen his own family impacted by the disease. "Fortunately I am very blessed in my life and to have this opportunity to help these families is not only a life-changing experience for them, but for me as well."
The purpose of The Extra Step as described by Meyers is to find families going through difficult times as a result of these medical hardships and assess where they need the most help. This includes aiding in the payment of medical expenses, because as Meyers says, "that is one of the biggest burdens hanging over their head." The next step in the process is to look for ways to improve their lives at home, including food, appliances, utilities, and other expenses that the family may be struggling to pay for.
For the three co-founders of The Extra Step, this is an effort to not only assist the children undergoing these hardships but also their families who are dealing with the stress and difficulties of the financial burden as well as the emotional strain of having a sick child or sibling.
"I feel like I have been extremely blessed in this world and when we took the trip to Costa Rica and received the opportunity to impact the lives of those children, it really conveyed that," said Swisher, who serves as the organization's secretary. "We created The Extra Step Foundation to give back to the world and help these children and their families and, hopefully, we can make this a better world, one family at a time."
In the short time the organization has been operating, The Extra Step has already raised over $1,000 for families in need. Meyers, Dickerman, and Swisher have set a goal of affecting the lives of more than 100 families through their work.
Austin College athletic teams participate as a member of the NCAA Division III and the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference.