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Team rallies for support organization

Members of the University of Jamestown women's volleyball team fill backpacks for abused children on Aug. 17, as part of volunteer day at Project Ignite Light in Rogers, N.D. Submitted photo

If you go

What: UJ women's volleyball vs Northwestern College of Iowa

When: 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15

Where: Harold Newman Arena, 6040 College Lane, Jamestown

Details: UJ team supporting Project Ignite Light at game; free admission with donation of new children/teen pajamas donation; freewill donations accepted

Contact: Jon Hegerle, 252-3467, ext. 5710, jhegerle@uj.edu

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Helping an organization that supports children during a low point in their lives is a labor of love, according to the University of Jamestown women's volleyball team.

The 25 team members along with coaches and staff visit Rogers, N.D., for one day each fall to volunteer at Project Ignite Light, a nonprofit organization that supports children who have suffered from abuse or neglect. This Saturday the volleyball team will support the nonprofit organization with a fundraiser during play against Northwestern College of Iowa.

"Project Ignite Light is a great charity that puts smiles on many children's faces even though they are going through a dark part of their life," said Meghan Orr, UJ student and volleyball team member.

Jon Hegerle, UJ women's volleyball coach and director of Harold Newman Arena, said the team has been supporting Project Ignite Light since 2014. The team helps maintain the former Barnes County North High School where the organization has its headquarters, he said.

"They've got a whole list of things to do," Hegerle said. "Every time we go out there we can tell how much it means to them and they are really appreciative of what we do."

As a nonprofit organization with a small staff the work would not be possible without generous donors and volunteers, said Pebbles Thompson, founder of Project Ignite Light, who runs the ministry with her husband, Darin. What the UJ volleyball team accomplishes in a single day of volunteering would take the staff weeks to accomplish alone, she said.

"Each year this team shows up, they work hard, and they do it with a good attitude," Thompson said. "It's a real testament to their coaches who set the tone and lead by example."

Project Ignite Light helps children who have been removed from a home for possible physical or sexual abuse, according to the organization's website. This can be a traumatic experience and kids are often without their clothing and belongings.

Project Ignite Light provides backpacks to help children feel more comfortable during a difficult time, according to the website. The backpacks contain clothing, toiletries, healthy snacks, a fleece tie blanket, journal, flashlight and the book "You Are Special" by Max Lucado.

"It's a really awesome organization with an even better mission," said Kennedy Conzemius, UIJ student and team member.

Some of the players have either experienced abuse or know people who have, Hegerle said. The letters from the kids they read and hear really hit home, he said.

"There is not a dry eye in the place," he said.

Aubrey Beaumont, a graduate student and assistant coach, said she has volunteered each year since the team started in 2014. The players fix blankets, put up shelving, paint, clean, pull out carpet, repair stuff, move stuff and mow lawns, she said.

"I love hearing the story about how impactful this organization is for these kids," she said. "It never gets old."