In support of one of its biggest fans, the Concordia University wrestling program participated in the Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk held Oct. 4 at Antelope Park in Lincoln, Neb. Head coach Dana Vote’s Bulldogs arrived prior to the start of the event at 8 a.m. to help run a variety of stations leading up to the walk at 9:30 a.m.
The team eagerly participated after learning about the fundraising event from the Fehlhafer family. Grant Fehlhafer, 11, who has Down syndrome, is the cousin of current Bulldog sophomore Austin Fehlhafer. With the help of the Concordia wrestlers, Grant’s group of walkers (“Grant’s Gang”) had the third most participants of any team at the event.
Grant, who often attends Bulldog wrestling meets and enjoys watching Austin compete, received a Concordia wrestling sweatshirt from the team, leaving him with an unmistakable grin.
“It’s awesome to see how our wrestling program is a special thing for Grant,” Vote said. “He really connects with watching Austin wrestle. I think it was very special to him for us to all be there. You could see the impact it had. You could see it in the picture we took with him in his wrestling shirt. He felt like he was part of the team. He was actually trying to wrestle a few of our guys.”
As his first cousin, it was important for Austin to be there for Grant.
“It was fun being there,” Austin said. “Grant is all about wrestling. Whenever I’m around he’s always trying to wrestle or grab my head. He comes to my meets so he’s always there for me. I was glad to be there for him and I know he was happy to see us. He really looks up to us as wrestlers.”
In turn, the Bulldogs were also rewarded for their community outreach efforts.
“They had a blast,” Vote said. “They love being around the kids, supporting them and being role models for them.”
Concordia wrestlers were active in the event as they served coffee and hot chocolate, ran stations with games, walked with the teams and handed out stickers to the walkers as they crossed the finish line.
This year’s Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk raised $86,913 for Down syndrome and saw more than 1,826 people participate in the walk.
As a program, Concordia wrestling also teamed up with Bulldog men’s basketball to move furniture from one facility to another for the Seward Ridgewood Rehab & Care Center in September.
“I think it’s very important (to get out in the community),” Vote said. “It’s team bonding. It gives them an opportunity to get out and help people and realize how big of an impact they can make on the community. I think the more projects we do the more excited our guys get about it because they see the impact they have on people.”