I had the privilege of working with the Columbus Blue Jackets for their 2018-2019 season as a Foundation Intern. Within my role I got to see many of the facets a professional sports foundation deals with, from community events and programming, to fundraising, to donations, to a multitude of other things. I got to experience the full spectrum of responsibilities such as working during home games, shipping donations to our beneficiaries, and anything else my bosses needed as they did their best to let me learn everything I could.
My understanding of community work and non-profit activity within sports shifted as I went through my internship, deepening my excitement and solidifying my desire to pursue a career in community development within sports. I understood that teams used their resources and platforms to enact positive change in their communities. However, I had no idea of the true depth or breadth of programs and actions that sports foundations and community development foundations created to spur that change. I’ve also grown personally, being more willing to ask questions as well as take initiative and voice my opinions or ideas.
My bosses Darla and Meredith were two of only three full time employees that the organization dedicates to the Foundation, though they often overlap with the community development department. Nearly every day I was treated with insight into another responsibility these two women had that contributed to the Foundation’s amazing work. I was able to help with the multitudes of paperwork involved in fundraising and coordinating volunteers. I assisted with setup and hosting of our massive annual fundraiser, Cannonball (that successfully brought in a record-setting $525,000). I got to witness children being treated at Nationwide Children’s Hospital meeting their favorite CBJ players and was brought to tears. Every day was a new adventure and new aspect of the job.
The fact there wasn’t a “typical day” in my internship excited me. I was worried that there may be a sort of cycle or boring regimen that my job may fall in to if I was to go into the industry. Darla and Meredith ensured me that every day was something new, for better or worse. The fact that they always had new tasks and projects for me to work on every time I can into the office, even though I was only an intern that had never watched a full game of hockey in her life, has been a key contributor to my love for the organization and my role.
Darla also greatly encouraged an environment where I was comfortable asking questions, and also taking initiative. Previously, I usually tried to figure things out on my own even when I wasn’t sure of the task set before me. I felt that asking questions showed weakness, or lack of qualification. However, Darla made sure that I could ask any questions I wanted, whether it pertained directly to my task, or was a general question about the team, sports foundations, or hockey in general. She never made me feel that my intelligence was being questioned, or the question I asked was inappropriate. I have taken this experience outside of my internship as well and into my classrooms. I don’t hesitate to ask questions if I am unsure or don’t understand.
Darla also encouraged me to take initiative. Every home game I worked the merchandise table, and she gave me free reign over setting up the table as I saw fit. However, I’m most excited about the statistical analysis project I am currently wrapping up for the Foundation. After sitting in on a department meeting where the team discussed the foundation’s 50/50 raffle fundraising, I approached Darla and offered to do an analysis that would allow us to predict and maximize this fundraising method. It turns out, she is ecstatic to have an intern with that capability, and when I brought the initial findings of the project to her she commented on how this is work that can be used long after I have moved on from the Columbus Blue Jackets organization. The thought that something I initiated as a single-season intern could have a lasting effect on how they operate really struck me. My first job experience in the sports industry can be a profound one. I’ve taken this boldness and initiative into my role within my business fraternity, voicing my ideas and applying for higher level positions that allow me to help others voice their ideas and opinions as well.
My experience as a Foundation with the Columbus Blue Jackets solidified my desire to pursue a career in community relations within sports. It gave me the starting point from which I can leap into greater things in the industry, as well as the skills and traits I can use to truly make myself successful as a member of a team. I have a much deeper and broader knowledge of non-profit activity in sports, and a network I can build off of to connect myself into the sports industry. I will forever be grateful to Darla, Meredith, and the Blue Jackets organization for this incredible opportunity and experience.