As a high school football player in Chicago, Vashon Nutt had never heard of Midland, Michigan. Then Northwood coach Pat Riepma came into his life.
“I believed in Coach Riepma, and it wasn’t just about football,” said Nutt, now a junior majoring in advertising and marketing, and a wingback for the Timberwolves. “One of the things he taught us was that every day is a precious gift.”
As the new president of Northwood in 2006, Dr. Keith Pretty had heard the phrase “Go MAD” associated with the football program, but he didn’t know what it meant. So he asked Riepma.
“He wouldn’t tell me,” Pretty recalled recently, smiling at the memory. “He said it was something special between him and his players. And I respected that.”
Eventually, Pretty and everyone at Northwood learned the full meaning of Go MAD. And on a blustery day October 21, 2016, hundreds of students, staff, and friends of the university fanned out across the Midland area and beyond to help the community understand as well, through dozens of service projects performed on Go MAD Day.
“It’s very cool to be a part of this,” said Leann Colella, a senior from Missoula, Montana, majoring in fashion marketing and management, who spent part of the day helping to build a new bench for guests of Midland’s Open Door shelter. “I’m proud of myself, and I’m proud that we’re doing something to give back to the community.”
Riepma’s special message to his players was “Go MAD – Go Make A Difference.” It was a simple but powerful challenge to every person who would listen: every day brings opportunities to make a positive difference in someone’s life, and everyone who seizes on those opportunities is better for it.
In July 2015, cancer took Riepma’s life. In his memory, the entire Northwood community celebrates his spirit and the impact he had on so many people with the annual Go MAD Day.
“We continue to live his legacy,” said Northwood Dean of Students Andy Cripe. “We really want Go MAD Day to be a celebration. But we also see it as a challenge, every day, to make a difference. That’s what Pat wanted. On a daily basis, if your eyes and your heart are open to making a difference for someone, you never know when you will.”
1.) Natalie Lumsden, Rochester senior, Accounting and Sports Management major, left, and Leann Colella, Missula, Montana, senior, Fashion Marketing and Management major, cut lumber for a bench being built at the Open Door shelter in Midland’s downtown area.
2.) Blessed Sacrament first-grader Isabella Getzingr gets tips for holding a bat from Northwood softball player Meghan Franz, Toledo, Ohio, junior, Marketing and Management major.
3.) Lauren Earley, DeWitt senior, cleans inside the soup kitchen at Midland’s Open Door shelter, where 50 to 100 people a day receive a free meal. Go MAD Day volunteers were a big help, according to Nate Place, ministry support coordinator at Open Door. “This is a soup kitchen, so we want everything to be clean,” Place said. “Because people are our top priority here, this kind of work gets pushed to the back burner.”
4.) Northwood President Dr. Keith Pretty offers snacks to Go MAD Day volunteers Lindsay Orwat, Grand Ledge junior, Accounting Major, center, and Jordyn Nurenberg, St. Johns senior, Business Administration major, at Blessed Sacrament School. Pretty visited many of the sites in and around Midland where Go MAD Day volunteers were at work.
5.) Northwood men’s basketball coach Jeff Rekeweg talks to students at Blessed Sacrament School on Go MAD Day, explaining that Northwood students were volunteering in honor of former coach Pat Riepma’s belief that everyone should strive to make a difference in the lives of people they meet. “Our challenge to you is to try to make a difference in someone’s life, every day,” Rekeweg told them.