Ask Christian Guenther, and the same thing happens at the Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association after every visit from a Northwestern student-athlete.

“Everyone starts wearing Northwestern gear,” he said. “And then they start requesting that we go to Northwestern games so they can see the athletes compete. I’ve started getting a lot of requests for anything that has to do with Northwestern.”

The partnership between TrueNU and the NSSRA is only about a year old, after Northwestern’s first NIL collective launched in the fall of 2022.

But after just one year, the impact is undeniable – and has been felt on both sides.

“I’m from Los Angeles so I haven’t been in Chicago for a very long time,” Kennedy Hill, a sophomore on Northwestern Volleyball said. “But these events are important to our team because these are the people that come to our games. And we want to reciprocate and show our thankfulness to the people who support us.”

TrueNU has partnered with more than 25 charitable causes, empowering Northwestern student-athletes and making a difference at non-profits throughout Chicagoland.

Northwestern’s NIL collective launched with a focus on “supporting charitable and community organizations,” after the NCAA passed legislation that allowed student-athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness.

Enter, the NSSRA. With offices in a former synagogue in Highland Park, the organization represents the combined resources of park districts and neighboring communities throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

“We provide opportunities for our participants to compete in sports,” Foundation Manager Laurie DeSimone said. “One of our families are big Northwestern supporters and have been involved in our program for more than 50 years. When the conversation came up with TrueNU, we learned about the opportunity to come together and felt like this could be a great partnership.”

The Wildcats have supported the NSSRA at a range of different events. Northwestern Football kicked off the partnership with their attendance at the NSSRA’s annual banquet.

“They were amazing,” DeSimone said. “We had one player sit at each table with our participants. I’m sure it was their first time that some of them had ever spent time with individuals with special needs, but they were fabulous.”

Northwestern Tennis also supported the NSSRA at the organization’s annual golf outing. DeSimone said one of the Wildcats she spoke with was a first-year student-athlete who hadn’t even started attending class yet but was already getting involved in the community.

The most recent event that brought together the combined resources of TrueNU and the NSSRA was a basketball tournament with other special recreation associations.

That’s where Hill and some of her Northwestern Volleyball teammates joined members of Northwestern Men’s Basketball to help referee, keep score and organize the event.

“I remember when the participants came in with their gear and we got our own whistles and referee jerseys,” she said. “I had flown in at the crack of dawn from back home in California, but it was such an enjoyable experience.”

As the partnership between TrueNU and the NSSRA continues to grow, Northwestern’s NIL collective is strengthening the bond between the school’s 19 varsity programs and charitable organizations in their community.

The future, for both organizations, is looking bright.

“I truly can’t say more positive things about this partnership,” DeSimone said. “We feel very fortunate that we’ve been able to build a relationship with TrueNU and the athletes.”


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