The Pillars of Canisius: C-Block

A Staff Report Series

 

As The Griffin looks at the different clubs and organizations that labeled as the “Pillars of Canisius,” the series concludes with C-Block.

In short, C-Block is the fan section of our school, cheering on our various sports teams from the sidelines. In order to join C-Block, students must pay a $10 yearly fee in order to fund merchandise, tickets, food, and giveaways for games. This used to be a one-time, lifelong membership fee, however, due to budget cuts, this fee has been changed to yearly.

The E-Board consists of Cindy Ly, president, Andy Helwig, treasurer, Joshua Larcom, vice president, Zoey Maggiore, secretary, Jordan Wheeler, director of fan experience, and Kelly Bray, director of membership.

In speaking with the E-Board, they concluded that 2017-2018 has proven to very much be a transitional year for the club. This is evidenced by the club’s new graduate assistant, new advisor, and entirely new E-Board.

“Our freshman year, we had an E-Board that was pretty much all juniors and seniors,” said Ly. “They kept the same E-Board throughout the same year; it’s a different vibe this year.”

Helwig explained that the new E-Board has had to learn how to run the club operationally without prior help, such as learning how to use CanisiusLife, appeal for budget money, and plan the annual bonfire.

“It’s a matter of figuring out how to operate the club and seeing what people like, what people don’t like in terms of bringing them to games, and trying to figure out how things run operationally,” said Helwig. “Just as a member, you go to the games, you come home, but there are a lot of things that happen behind-the-scenes that you don’t know about–” “that we had to figure out ourselves,” Ly interjected. “We had to do pretty much everything from scratch.”

The E-Board went on to explain that in addition to dealing with this transition, the club has also had to cope with a significant budget cut. Last academic year, C-Block was allotted $10,000 for the entire year from the Undergraduate Student Association (USA). This year, however, their budget has been halved, allotting them only $5,000 for the entire year.

The E-Board went on to explain that this budget cut has significantly impacted the quality and quantity of the impact and events they are able to produce.

“It’s no shock people love free stuff and it makes our jobs a lot easier when we can say ‘Hey, come to the games, get a free t-shirt, get a sweatshirt.’That’s when the big crowds really start to show up, it’s when there’s free stuff,” said Helwig. “So given that our budget was cut down quite a bit, it created a lot tougher challenges for us to be able to draw people to games.”

Helwig explained that free Canisius merchandise draws a large audience, especially incoming freshman, and the importance of such free items should not be understated. “[A larger budget] would help bring in a larger audience too because there are only so many people here that come to the games and have the experience because they like sports,” Helwig said. “We’d be able to reach a larger crowd if we did the ‘Hey come get this free shirt’ or ‘Hey come get this free food,’ it would help bring a larger audience to the club and the whole experience within the game itself.”

In addition, this budget has limited the number of trips to away games that C-Block is able to provide to students.

“We usually take a roadtrip to a hockey game, either Rochester or Niagara, and we couldn’t really do that this year,” said Helwig. “It inhibited us a little bit in terms of other experiences we could provide.”

Helwig and Ly explained that the annual C-Block shirt that the club provides to joining members cost nearly half their budget, right at the beginning of the academic year. “We don’t really have much room to do anything,” said Ly. “If we were to plan events on campus like SPB, we couldn’t because our budget.”

Ly explained that C-Block would be able to host many more campus-wide and pre- and post-game events with a larger C-Block budget. “We want to do so much but we can’t because our budget is limited,” she said.

Ly also mentioned that some events have already been cut from this year, such as their several pep rallies, Midnight Madness, and a chicken wing eating contest.

Further indicating the struggle of having this halved budget, was C-Block having to co-sponsor it’s signature Welcome Week bonfire event with the Residence Hall Association (RHA) at the beginning of the fall semester.

“That was just frustrating for us because we’ve been hosting it [for a long time],” Ly said. “It was just hard because then we would do stuff, we would figure it out, and then it was kind of like they were taking credit for everything. Our name wasn’t even on the flyer, it was just RHA. We did most of it, our club created the shirts and they got credit for it.”

Helwig reassured that this experience wasn’t in vain, as it helped the E-Board gain more knowledge and develop more experience in planning events and communicating with one another.

Despite a majority of clubs on campus having issues with gaining and retaining freshman members, C-Block seems to have the opposite problem. “We hang out with all the freshmen, we’re really close with them,” Zoey Maggiore said.

Ly added that last year, approximately 12 students attended the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. This year, were were 30 attendees, with the majority being freshmen. “We have a lot of interest in the younger crowd,” Ly said. “It’s getting better.”

C-Block explained that a big way they attract freshmen to the club is simply by keeping their clubroom door open. “They’re really into it, this class, so we’ve been able to get them in here, said Helwig. “Their friends show up too and hang out and show up to games, as well.”

He continued, “We’re trying to create a culture starting with the freshman that this is fun, this is what we like to do, and that’s really starting to set in with this class, and hopefully as we move on and they move on, there’s always a solidly large group of kids that are into it.”

“Which is different from past years,” Ly added. “Because it was all the same people, the E-Board and us, like 10 of us.”

“We hang out in Bosch,” said Maggiore, reiterating the the club’s close relationship with the freshmen.

Interestingly, C-Block has the freshman participation so many other clubs are desperate for, but not the funds or resources to attain even more of them.

The E-Board explained that they try and encourage the campus community to join them at games through sending emails, posting on social media, “dorm-storming,” or knocking on the doors of each room in the residence halls, and talking to students in the library. “We try to do everything,” Ly said.

“We do our best to try and find ways to get more students interested in coming,” said Helwig. “Whether it be people that are coming from schools that love to do that kind of thing anyways or students that don’t know that many people to come and have fun and try and help our team to a win.”

In addition to this, C-Block tries to get athletic teams involved in raising awareness and encouraging involvement for games, such as last year, when they hosted a game night in Palisano with the hockey team. In the future, C-Block hopes to incorporate athletes into more of their events.

In an effort to increase attendance at games and their events, C-Block also often surveys students asking them the regularity in which they attend games, as well as how their experience can be improved, amongst other questions.

Maggiore emphasized that the primary goal of C-Block is to have fun. “School is tough, and stressful,” she said. “Going to games and stuff with C-Block is just a time where you can hang out and not have to worry about it, spend a weekend in Albany, go to the MAAC tournament.”

“It’s two hours of hanging out with your friends and being obnoxious at a game,” Helwig added.

The E-Board explained that each of them have been involved in C-Block since freshman year, which is where their passion for the club developed.

“It’s a fun thing to do, that’s why I’m still in it. It’s a lifestyle,” Ly said. “We’re still in it from freshman year, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t enjoy it. You come in here and all the worries of the day, school, stress, tests, work, relationships, all that bad stuff [goes away]. It’s just a nice place to go. These are my best friends, and the freshman are great.”

Maggiore explained that she originally joined the club because her older sister had been a member. “I think now, being on the E-Board and having us run this club, that’s what drives me,” she said. “I want this club to be the best that it can possibly be, because I’ve seen it when I wasn’t in charge, and having the opportunity to keep that momentum going over the years is my thing.”

Helwig said that his primary motivation for the club is witnessing the excitement of a sold-out crowd. “When you see [a packed Koessler Center] and everyone just losing their minds at the game, I feel like that’s one of the most exciting times of the year for me.” He continued, “Whether it be hockey or basketball, when you get those big crowds, and just the energy that’s at a game like that, and being able to be a part of bringing everyone together to bring out that kind of atmosphere at a home game is really fun.”

Ly’s passion for athletics stemmed from her involvement in a similar club in high school. She explained that C-Block’s graduate advisor during her freshman year, 2015-2016, Eddie Zirnheld, was a primary factor in her continued active involvement. “He made it so welcoming,” she said. “I remember my first day in here, I came in and grabbed a ticket, and he gave me a ticket and I was like ‘Go Griffs!’ and every single time, I’d come in here, grab a ticket, and yell ‘Go Griffs!,’ that was just a thing we did. It felt like a family.”

Ly said that one of her goals is to create that same welcoming feeling for all members of the club, especially with incoming freshman from out of state.

“I just want everyone to feel the way I felt coming in here. I [was] a nervous freshman coming into this big club, everyone [was] so cool,” she said. “I just wanted to pass that feeling that I had onto students now. I love building friendships, making friends, going to games, just spending time together.”

Evidently, C-Block is a very passionate club, not only in the way they cheer for their fellow Griffs at sporting events, but also by the way in which the members of the E-Board lead. C-Block has succeeded in cultivating a culture where freshmen are flocking to the club, despite the apparent student apathy elsewhere on campus.

Sadly, the financial restrictions placed upon the club by USA have severely impacted the scope and quality of events they can provide. Despite this, the E-Board’s passion for their club has only increased as they continue to support both athletics teams and their own membership.

“C-Block is my home. It’s kind of cliché, but it’s a home away from home, and that’s what I want freshman to feel, and that’s what drives me,” Ly concluded.

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