It’s never too early to be a member of the Pride, according to Purdue University Northwest. Purdue Northwest University Athletics Department’s 6th Annual Kids & Alumni Day was a special event for past graduates and possible future PNW students alike, even if they’re currently three feet tall.
The event was packed with activities like a bounce house, face painting, games and prizes in the Fitness and Recreation Center in Hammond on Saturday afternoon.
At the centerpiece of the event, PNW Pride men’s and women’s basketball teams hosted Wayne State University from Michigan for a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference doubleheader. For Rick Costello, Purdue University Northwest director of athletics, this marks a particularly exciting time for the university and community alike, as PNW is now a NCAA Division II school.
“Now they can see what Division II athletics is all about,” Costello said.
Earlier in the day as Costello walked alongside the collegiate mascot, Leo the Lion, he was surprised to see how many kids and families got excited as PNW’s group passed by at the Hammond Holiday Parade.
“It’s really exciting to welcome in the community and all of the families on campus,” Costello said. “As I was walking in the parade, flanking Leo, I heard a number of kids saying ‘I want to go to Purdue Northwest!’ Which is awesome to hear. Some day they may turn into future Pride members.”
To make them feel a part of the campus, the staff handed out tiny PNW shirts with the lion logo displayed loud and proud to all kids in attendance.
“My favorite part is when I see the little ones run around with black and gold on, having a great time. This is a big family event, seeing moms and dads and kids enjoying the best Purdue Northwest has to offer.”
Sarah Belford, Purdue University Northwest athletic secretary, said every year around 175 to 200 kids attend the event.
“It’s a great way to get the community involved in coming to our games,” Belford said. “Plus, kids are our future. They get to see the game, and have some fun while they’re here.”
Sponsored by NIPSCO, the university offered free admission to the game for kids and alumni, alike. Lauri Jackson came with her husband, her 6-year-old, 5-year-old and her father, who is the coach for the PNW women’s team.
“This is super nice,” Jackson said. “It’s great for the school, it’s so nice that they have families come out and watch the game and bring the kids. It builds a sense of community, I have a lot of respect for that.”
Hammond resident Antionette Anderson brought her 8-year-old and 10-year-old who are both big basketball fans. She said she wouldn’t mind if the two boys grew up to be members of the PNW Pride. “It would be nice,” she smiled. “It’s close so they wouldn’t have to go away for school.”
Vincent Clark, PNW alumnus, brought his 4-year-old nephew for some quality time.
“It’s already a community school,” Clark said. “So it’s great they have alumni and get families out here. For him, this is my nephew’s first basketball game. When I went here, the athletics were NAIA, now they are NCAA Division II- this is the place for athletics now. I didn’t attend games when I was in school, but now 20 years later, I go to games.”
Look up the athletic schedule for Purdue University Northwest at www.pnwathletics.com for more information.