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Baseball Players Rebuild Homes in New Orleans

John Hennessy

John Hennessy

Jan. 27, 2014

Written by senior Kristen Scott

A group of Boston College student-athletes made its way down to New Orleans, Louisiana to participate in the Devlin S-AFE service trip. Through the St. Bernard project, the student-athletes worked to rebuild homes that have been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Three members of the baseball team - senior John Hennessy and sophomores Jeff Burke and Stephen Sauter - talked about their experiences in the still-ravaged communities in New Orleans.

"This summer I was thinking about my experiences at BC, and how I haven't really done a lot to be a part of the larger Boston College community and fulfill BC's Jesuit ideals. I felt like the S-AFE trip would be a good way to be a bigger part of that," Hennessy said.

"As a student-athlete, we're pretty privileged. So, anything we could do would help. I heard about this trip [from Burke] and thought it would be an amazing experience," Sauter explained.

Jeff Burke

This was Burke's second time traveling to New Orleans with the Devlin S-AFE service trip. Last year, he was surprised to see how much damage still remained eight years after Katrina destroyed the city.

"There were some improvements, but I was especially surprised that some of the homes that were destroyed during Katrina still weren't taken down," Burke said. "However, I got to see the finished house that I was working on last year and meet the family that's living in it now. It was a pretty cool experience."

Besides putting in drywall and tiling, the student-athletes visited a local Boys & Girls Club and middle school. Burke, Hennessy and Sauter got the opportunity to spend time with kids who grew up with the destruction of Katrina.

"We went to Lake Castle Elementary School where [teammate] Blake Butera's father is the principal. There, we sat down and talked with sixth, seventh and eighth graders about succeeding in school and sports and answered any questions they had," said Sauter.

"A lot of the kids don't want to leave the Southeast, so we also let them know that in four years, they could have an amazing experience going somewhere completely different for college," said Burke.

The teammates also discussed what the Devlin S-AFE service trip meant to them. For Sauter and Burke, the immediate positive impact their work had on the community resonated with them the most.

"Sometimes in other programs, you don't get to see where the money goes or what you're actually doing to help. But in New Orleans - working on the houses - I got to see the finished product of my work and actually see how we contributed," said Sauter. "I learned that you really can't take anything for granted. Your whole world could be gone within two days. Also, any impact that you have really makes a difference. People really do appreciate it."

"There were a lot of local people who came up to me and expressed how important it was that we were there to help rebuild their community," said Burke.

The community made an impression on the student-athletes as well. The way in which the people of New Orleans formed a united front in the face of a tragedy inspired Hennessy.

Stephen Sauter

"Seeing how the community in New Orleans all rallied after a tragedy like Katrina reminded me of `Boston Strong' and how the entire city of Boston came together after the bombing. Seeing the resiliency of another community in a different part of the country really stuck with me," Hennessy said.

Hennessy, Burke and Sauter were grateful to have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a community outside of their own and to have an experience to put their lives in perspective.

"The Devlin S-AFE program itself is awesome for student-athletes because even with the time commitment we have with our sports, we're still able to participate in something to help others," Sauter said.

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