Four Loras seniors – Ben Burkholder (’20), Ben Friedman (’20), Pat Hunt (’20), Michael Runde (’20) – were ready to pull together their capstone project when the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything.
“We originally began the semester with a documentary idea about a specific neighborhood in Dubuque, and we were talking to each of the residents that lived there throughout February and early March,” Friedman recalled. “Once COVID-19 began to spread, the ability to talk effectively and safely with each of the residents and complete the project we had set out to finish quickly began to look doubtful.”
On March 17, the four seniors met with their advisor to review ten ideas to pursue as an alternate topic. One of those ideas was to talk with student-athletes on the abrupt end of their seasons. Just five days earlier, the NCAA canceled all winter athletics less than 24 hours before some were set to begin, including the championships of Division III wrestling and indoor track & field and the remaining men’s and women’s basketball tournament. The idea to sit down with student-athletes from those sports and share their experiences proved the most viable.
“We knew that the Loras community would have a profound interest, and we also knew this would be the most feasible for us to be able to do,” Hunt said.
Added Friedman, “We all experienced loss of some kind when the semester ended abruptly and being able to express that same general idea through the specific lens of these student-athletes and these programs that weekend resonated with us.”
Within a matter of hours of selecting the new documentary subject, Loras College officially ended in-person learning. Students needed to move off campus by the end of the week. While preparing to return to their homes and get ready for on-line instruction, the work began to shift to a new documentary topic and get all the interviews lined up.
The student-athletes proved more than willing to share their experiences. Guy Patron (’20), Gabrielle Noland (’20), Shamari Scott (’20) and Keri Fitzpatrick (’20) all sat down with the filmmakers to provide first-hand accounts of how their seasons ended.
“For the most part, each of the student-athletes seemed eager to talk about their experience,” Friedman recalled. “It was great to have the opportunity to honor them, and through them, honor their teams and all athletes and seniors as well.”
“The student-athletes wanted to share their story and show the Loras community we are all in this together and that they appreciate the support from everyone,” Burkholder added.
The cooperation of the student-athletes was a surprise to Runde since the disappointment was still so fresh.
“I was honestly surprised at how willing each of them was just because it was such a hard and recent topic for each of them,” he said. “Throughout the interviews, it almost seemed therapeutic for each of them to talk through everything that happened. They made the creation of this a lot easier for us with just how willing and helpful they were leading up to, and even after the interviews, just sending us any information or pictures we thought we might need from them.”
On Monday, May 25, “One Stolen Moment” debuted on YouTube following a focused social media campaign to build awareness. The response was quick and overwhelmingly positive. It even drew interest from local news in a segment on KWWL-TV.
“Our live premiere on YouTube had hundreds of viewers, and only 24 hours later, we were up to over 3K views and climbing,” Hunt said. “None of it would have been possible without cooperation from everyone who was in our film, as well as my incredible partners.”
Runde added, “The response has been better than anything we could have ever imagined. I’ve had several people with absolutely no ties to Loras even reach out and tell me how much they loved it or how much it affected them while watching. I would never have expected such an incredible reaction. I really can’t describe how much it’s meant to us seeing the community react the way they have, but it’s definitely something I’ll never forget.”
Burkholder has had similar experiences with individuals who watched the documentary.
“The Tri-State community has given positive feedback, and I believe this story opens up the public’s eyes more about how much this hurt Loras Athletics (and all athletes)! Numerous people have reached out to me personally praising the documentary, and countless others are saying they cried watching the documentary,” he said.
You can watch “One Stolen Moment” here.