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Note Book

Fall 2005 • Volume 11, Issue 4

Braves Scholarship Society creates a winning team

BU BravesFor student athletes, creating and maintaining the delicate equilibrium between classes, sports, friends, and leisure time is a tricky balancing act. Financial worries can be the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel’s back.” The Braves Scholarship Society (BSS) was initiated in 2002 to financially support these student athletes.

The BSS allows both private sponsors and companies to make a commitment to Bradley athletics. This gift is 100% tax deductible, and sponsors are given first priority for sports tickets, reserved parking privileges, invitations to special functions, and Chiefs Club membership benefits.

The greatest rewards are developing a relationship with a student athlete and knowing that their funds will be used to improve Bradley’s athletics program. In 2003, Joe and Janet O’Neill made the decision to sponsor women’s basketball player Va’Nicia Waterman ’05.

“My husband Joe didn’t blink an eye when we discussed how I’d like to give something back to women’s athletics,” says O‘Neill, a former women’s basketball player at Creighton University. “I appreciate how athletics paid for my schooling. I never took it for granted because my scholarship took such a burden off my family. Va’Nicia is an awesome person. She graduated in 3½ years with a double major and made the dean’s list every semester. We actually had her graduation party at our home because we are so proud of her. Although Va’Nicia was a starter for three years, she didn’t play as much her senior year. We talked at great lengths about her character and integrity. My youngest daughter, Emily, idolizes Va’Nicia. Now, we’re sponsoring Erika Nelson ‘07, a basketball player from the Chicago area. She is a phenomenal kid, a great student, and her goal is to attend medical school. For me personally, it means so much to support these athletes in as many ways as my family can.”

The level of intimacy the sponsors maintain with their athlete is self-determined. “Some of the donors are not as available due to conflicting schedules,” states Ken Kavanagh, Bradley’s director of athletics, “and they aren’t able to interact as much; however, they still enjoy knowing that they’re making a valued contribution.” Other sponsors take pleasure in serving as mentors by maintaining a close connection with their student athlete.
“The program is working the way it should,” says Kavanagh, “when people want to stay in touch even after the commitment to the BSS is over. They’ve become friends, hopefully for life.”

Gifts are utilized in a variety of ways, including improvement and expansion of athletic facilities, enhancement of services offered to BU student athletes, athletic grant-in-aid packages, and to support athletes who have exhausted their NCAA eligibility. Although they are unable to continue participating in their sport, the BSS makes it possible for student athletes to remain at Bradley and complete their degree, further enhancing BU’s Missouri Valley Conference leading graduation rate of 78 percent.

For more information, contact Rick Gaa, director of development for athletics, at 309-677-3946, or e-mail him at


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