SETTING THE PACE

Dalee Higgins

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It’s no secret that certain sports generate more revenue than others.

But just because a sport earns less revenue doesn’t make it any less significant.

For University of the Pacific cross country runner Dalee Higgins, this is the message she strived to get across for the annual Pacific Gives fundraiser. Representing on behalf of the cross country and track teams, Higgins signed on to become an ambassador for the event to raise awareness and donations within the community.

“As I began this process, I heard from so many people that didn’t even know we had a cross country team,” said Higgins. “I didn’t take it personally because I understand that we’re not basketball, volleyball, and water polo. But we still matter.”

Higgins wanted to prove just that.

She was determined not only to gather donations to help with the program’s budget but also to put cross country on the map at Pacific.

“I felt this was the perfect opportunity for people to learn about our teams,” said Higgins. “I wanted everyone to see that we’re DI athletes, too, and we train and work just as hard as everyone else does.”

With her outgoing personality, positive energy, and unbridled passion for her sport, she set out to receive as many donations as she could, knowing the uphill battle that was in front of her.

 

The forgotten team

As a sophomore in college, save for her Girl Scout days, Higgins didn’t have much experience with fundraising. That’s why she knew she needed a great sales pitch, which she discovered was to be honest and authentic.

“I ultimately just explained our story,” said Higgins. “Unlike other sports, we (cross country and track and field) don’t need a gym, pool, field, etc., so we kind of fly under the radar. It’s not easy to get eyeballs on our sports sometimes.”

Once Higgins shared her team’s story, people started to take notice in ways she wasn’t expecting. This encouraged her teammates and coach to also get heavily involved in the process.

“It blew up,” said Higgins. “The donors I talked to really empathized with our story, and they wanted to do everything they could to help our sports.”

“When I got to around 50-60 donors, my coach was super excited. He saw this as an opportunity to take a giant leap for our programs, and it became far bigger than he or any of us on the team were expecting.”

Through Higgins’ hard work and dedication, the team was quickly becoming more noteworthy with every increasing donation.

A collective effort

As if Higgins needed any added motivation, it was announced before the fundraiser started that the top three ambassadors at the school would be granted an extra $1,000 for their program. With the help of her team, she was set on earning that $1,000.

“Once I hit the 50-60 donor mark, I probably added about 20 more after that on my own,” said Higgins. “At that point, being one of the top ambassadors and earning the bonus was looking like a real possibility.”

“That’s when my teammates and coaches started using my link to make sure we got the bonus as a team. We all knew that $1,000 would do wonders for our program.”

When Pacific Gives ended, Higgins garnered an astonishing amount of donors for a grand total of 105, which put her into the top three list of ambassadors and awarded her program the $1,000 bonus.

“I don’t look at myself as a fundraising guru by any stretch of the imagination,” said Higgins. “But I am a social person, and I think my extroverted personality combined with the passion I have for my team, program, and university is why I was able to establish so much success in this event.”

I felt this was the perfect opportunity for people to learn about our team. I wanted everyone to see that we're DI athletes, too, and we train and work just as hard as everyone else does.

Building something special

While Higgins was thrilled for the opportunity to raise money and awareness for a program that is so near and dear to her heart, she was even more excited about how Pacific Gives brought the team together.

“From a performance standpoint, this past season wasn’t our best,” said Higgins. “So this event allowed us to come together in a way that I hadn’t seen in a while.”

“After a down season, it gave us a reason to be excited about something again. Pacific Gives was the spark we needed as a team.”

Higgins is looking forward to that spark igniting the team this upcoming fall. She firmly believes they’re a different team in regard to team chemistry and camaraderie, but she’s also confident that the best days are ahead for the program as a whole.

“Dr. Scott Biedermann reached out to me not long after the fundraiser concluded,” said Higgins. “He’s the Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations at Pacific, and he was so impressed by everything we did as a team through Pacific Gives.”

“Going forward, he wants me to share my story as a student-athlete and speak at events with alumni, board of regents, community members, etc., to make sure they know about our programs.”

By using her voice and platform, she’s optimistic about the exciting changes that can benefit the program moving forward. As a junior this upcoming fall, she’s also hoping she gets to see those changes come into fruition while she’s still on campus.

“I plan on graduating a year early and pursuing my master’s at Pacific while I continue to run, so I would love the opportunity to witness these changes first-hand,” said Higgins. “I think we’re building something special here.”

There’s not a doubt in her mind that her sport can one day attract the same attention as the major sports around campus, but she’s also aware it won’t happen overnight.

Fortunately for Higgins, she’s never started a race she had no intentions of finishing.