by Dennis Dalman
Wide receiver Will Gillach of St. John’s University was one of 22 athletes honored at half-time during the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl game in New Orleans.
Gillach was named to the American College Coaches Association’s Good Works Team, a prestigious annual roster to pay tribute to players who volunteer and work selflessly to help others. A junior, Gillach is studying bio-chemistry at SJU with an emphasis on pre-medicine.
The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Clemson Tigers 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl game.
This year’s honorary Good Works Team coach is Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern University.
Gillach, 22, has volunteered in a variety of good-works projects. He traveled to the Central American country of Nicaragua with a team of doctors to provide diagnoses and medical care for people living in impoverished areas. He has helped pack thousands of food kits for Kids Against Hunger and has raised money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. He also works part time for Anna Marie’s Shelter, St. Cloud, as a role-model/mentor for children who have been traumatized by domestic violence.
In speaking of that experience, Gillach said to reporter David McCoy of WCCO-TV after receiving the Good Works Team Award.
“Every time I go there (women’s shelter), I see different people’s circumstances. It really affects me in how I see the world and how I see other people. And it kind of continuously reminds me that I’m very, very fortunate in my life, and other people aren’t as fortunate. And so I think it reminds me to give back and strive to make a difference in other people’s lives that might need a little help.”
Gillach is a 2015 graduate of Chisago Lakes High School. It is his parents, he said, who inspired him to reach out to help others. His father, Jim, who was a cross-country and track athlete in college, graduated from SJU in 1990. His mother, Ann, played softball in college and graduated from the College of St. Benedict, also in 1990.
Gillach and his SJU position coach, Kole Heckendorf, traveled to New Orleans days before the game and did volunteer work, with the other Good Works Team members at the APEX Youth Center in New Orleans. On the last day of December, they were guests of honor in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Parade.
This Good Works Team is the 26th since the first team was named in 1992. Gillach is the second “Johnnie” to be named to the team. A previous honoree from SJU was Kevin McNamara, a 2007 SJU graduate who was named to the team in 2006.
When he is not on the playing field or helping others, Gillach is busy at work in classrooms and laboratories. Last summer he completed a two-week stem-cell and regenerative-science workshop at St. Mary’s University. He is doing lab work with SJU/CSB assistant professor of biology. The project involves examining the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria in the central Minnesota area derived from samples of on-campus lakes, the Sauk River and the Mississippi River.
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.