There was no shortage of wide smiles on the faces of children participating in the First Tee Indiana Youth Golf Clinic on April 29. But perhaps the only smiles that were wider were those on the faces of the members of the Valparaiso University men’s and women’s golf programs, who helped the young people work on their golf game and built relationships along the way as part of the clinic.
Moments like these – in this case, lifelong memories for the young golfers and the collegiate golfers alike – are a big part of what the Victory Bell Club, Inc. is all about. Launched this academic and athletic year, The Victory Bell Club is an independent 501(c)3 corporation that was founded to support Valpo student-athletes and foster relationships with local non-profit organizations.
The Victory Bell Club builds opportunities for student-athletes to receive compensation for community-conscious representation in Northwest Indiana. Local charitable non-profit organizations receive increased exposure thanks to the representation from the student-athletes.
Helping Valpo student-athletes thrive and supporting the local community are both causes near and dear to the heart of Victory Bell Club President Jim Hooper, who played for the Valpo men’s basketball program from 2003-2006.
“I’m passionate about Valparaiso University and the Northwest Indiana community,” Hooper said. “Being a part of the athletic department there really changed my life in a lot of ways. I’m thankful for all of the coaches from my time there. I feel like giving back is the right thing to do given everything that Valpo gave to me. Getting these student-athletes out in the community teaches them how to be good community members and helps them gain real-world experience. We’re able to accomplish those goals while at the same time allowing the student-athletes to be compensated for their time and also benefiting charitable organizations.”
The Victory Bell Club’s first event featured the men’s basketball program building bicycles for the City Life Center of Northwest Indiana in Gary this winter. It was a team-building exercise and the bikes went to children in need.
“I’m sure everyone remembers getting their first bike,” Hooper said. “It’s a pretty meaningful moment for those kids. Having the opportunity to give these bikes to a few of the kids was instrumental for both the kids and the players. It was a very meaningful moment to both.”
The First Tee Indiana serves the mission of building game changers by empowering kids and teens through the game of golf. The aforementioned clinic was The Victory Bell Club’s most recent event.
“We put on a clinic for several hours at Creekside Golf Course,” Hooper said. “They went through various drills and had lunch with the kids. This was instrumental in the kids’ development to see people who had grown up and are now successful Division-I golfers. I remember when I was a kid, looking up to the players who played at Valpo and attending camps. The feedback we got from the student-athletes was that this was a meaningful experience and that being compensated through the NIL piece was an added benefit.”
The Victory Bell Club management is not taking a fee for orchestrating these events. Every dollar that is put into The Victory Bell Club is going toward executing its charitable mission, which is a combination of bringing exposure to the charity organizations through student-athletes and giving to the charities by using funds from The Victory Bell Club to help support their mission.
“NIL is an important development for student-athletes and athletic departments,” Victory Bell Club board member Mark LaBarbera said. “Success in Division-I athletics moving forward will require schools to provide appropriate and meaningful ways for their student-athletes to be engaged with NIL opportunities. Jim Hooper’s vision for creating the Victory Bell Club as a way of combining NIL opportunities, brand development and community service clearly fit within Valpo’s mission of creating leaders. The recent VBC/First Tee youth golf clinic was a great example of Jim’s vision. The members of the men’s and women’s golf teams interacting with local youth while raising money for First Tee was wonderful to watch.”
For additional information on The Victory Bell Club, visit https://victorybellclub.org/ or email email@example.com.
“The intercollegiate athletics environment continues to evolve and become more complex,” Valpo Director of Athletics Dr. Charles Small said. “In order to provide an extraordinary student-athlete experience, we will need to continue traditional strategies around raising resources, but also collaborate with partners and supporters where our missions align. The Victory Bell Club is an exemplary example of meeting multiple needs and interests. We are excited about the organization’s mission of building community capacity and providing opportunities for student-athletes while contributing to our region’s development.”
ABOUT THE VICTORY BELL CLUB
The Victory Bell Club is dedicated to serving the Northwest Indiana community and beyond by
fostering partnerships between current Valparaiso University student-athletes and local non-
profit organizations. The Victory Bell Club is an independent 501(c)3 corporation and is not part
of Valparaiso University. Recent NCAA legislation that permits student-athletes to earn income
from their Name, Image and Likeness has created additional opportunities for student-athletes to
have extraordinary experiences. Collectives like The Victory Bell Club have been formed across
the country to benefit student-athletes at specific institutions. All donations to The Victory Bell
Club support the mission of that organization but are not connected to Valparaiso University.