HELENA — Just over a month ago, Helena Capital sophomore Audrey Hofer was learning she was named Montana’s Gatorade volleyball player of the year. Wednesday, it was Hofer presenting an honor.
The Capital sophomore presented the Helena Family YMCA with a $10,000 check as part of the Gatorade Play It Forward spotlight grant campaign. Each Gatorade player of the year winner is given a $1,000 grant to donate to the charity of their choice, but Hofer provided Gatorade with an essay focused on the benefits of the Helena YMCA and was one of 12 finalists given the $10,000 grant.
“That is a big check, not the money, it’s just a big check in general,” she laughed after presenting Helena YMCA interim CEO Teri Wright with the ceremonial cardboard check. “It was really exciting and I just feel so special, because I get to be up here with (former Carroll College football coach Mike Van Diest) and it feels like everything I’ve done is paying off. It’s a really nice experience.”
Hofer, who mentioned the key role the local YMCA played in her athletic upbringing, said choosing the Helena Family YMCA was an easy choice, one she believes will help kickstart the careers of area youth.
“I hope that the $10,000 goes to all the kids that want to have fun and start doing things with their lives. Playing sports is such a great thing for kids, because it keeps them active and it helps them build new relationships, learn all these skills they can use throughout their lives,” she said. “Getting to play high school sports is such a great thing for kids these days, so I hope that $10,000 goes to helping them.”
Van Diest, the six-time NAIA national champion football coach, was the guest speaker at the event, discussing the importance of youth sports and organizations like the YMCA. He praised Hofer, as well as Helena High multi-sport standout Jamie Pickens, who presented the YMCA with her Gatorade basketball grant from last season, for giving back.
“Filling out (the essay) was important to me because I know it’s going to such a great place. Filling it out was super easy to write, too, because everything is so nice about that place,” said Hofer. “I mainly talked about the staff and different experiences it gives children, the amazing connections that people make with their coaches and friends.”