Missouri gymnast makes difference outside gym

Tuesday, December 8, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST
Missouri gymnast Allie Heizelman said she became much more involved with community service once she came to college. She now serves as a vice president of community service for the Student-Athlete Advisory Council at MU.

COLUMBIA — One of the most rewarding handstands of Allie Heizelman’s gymnastics career was performed in a hospital.

Heizelman, along with some of her teammates on the Missouri gymnastics team, visit sick children in the hospital on the first Tuesday of every month. Two visits last spring left a lasting impression on the sophomore.

Heizelman remembered visiting a young boy during one of her trips to the hospital. She did a handstand, which drew claps and cheers from the boy. She could see the excitement in his face.

A month later Heizelman returned to the hospital hoping to brighten the days of a few more children. She came across the same boy again. A big smile spread across Heizelman’s face when she reached this point in the story.

“He remembered my name,” she said.

It was a special moment for somebody who constantly is trying to make a difference. Heizelman did another handstand for the boy and received the same reaction.

“That was really cool,” Heizelman said. “It gives me the goose bumps just thinking about it.”

Missouri gymnastics coach Rob Drass said Heizelman is always looking for ways to help others. He said she epitomizes the values he looks for in a student-athlete.

“Each and every day Allie is reaching out to a teammate or helping somebody so something,” Drass said. “It’s more of a surprise when you don’t see her doing that.”

Heizelman is the co-vice president of community service for the Student-Athlete Advisory Council at MU. Each sport has two representatives on the council. She said one of the big topics discussed at meetings is community service. Heizelman presents community service projects to the members of the council, who then bring those ideas back to their respective teams.

This semester, Heizelman and the rest of the gymnastics team have been involved with a number of community service projects. They spent a few hours on a Saturday morning packaging noodles for the food bank. They’ve helped out at a youth gymnastics meet.

Currently, the team is getting presents together for the Adopt-A-Family program, which sends holiday gifts to families who may not otherwise be able to afford them. Like many of the other projects, Heizelman is one of the people organizing everything.

“A lot of times I’m the one who coordinates that,” she said. “For the gymnastics meet, I contacted the lady for Tiger Academy. For Adopt-A-Family, I’m going to be the one to collect everything and go drop it off wherever it needs to be dropped off.”

Heizelman said she became much more involved with community service once she came to college. She wants to become a doctor, so she can help people in even different ways. But whether she’s doing handstands or carrying a stethoscope, Heizelman loves having a positive impact on somebody else’s life.

“Even just going to the hospital and walking around and talking to the 10 kids I get to talk to,” she said. “The kids just light up and they think it’s cool. It’s exciting to make a difference.”

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Marilyn Jenkins January 3, 2010 | 5:33 p.m.

Allison has always been a very kind and respectful girl. Her mother was very well mannered too but hopefully she will go even farther.

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