In Franklin we are blessed to have Kayla’s Playground. When I had the privilege to emcee the playground’s Grand Opening ceremony I called it the greatest day in the history of the city of Franklin.
The award-winning project would not have been possible without numerous voluinteers and donors, more than 2,000 I’ve heard. All of them are super special and can and should be extremely proud. But here’s an example of just one of them.
Holly Denfeld of Edgar, Wisconsin is a senior at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). A tremendous talent, she played for the MSOE women’s basketball team. Her coach, Katie Nelson called her the best to ever play at MSOE. Her resume is incredible.
On Tuesday (yesterday) Denfeld was named an Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America for the third time. She was a repeat selection on the Academic All-America First Team. She was also named to the second team as a sophomore in 2015.
Denfeld had an outstanding senior season, repeating as Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) Player of the Year while maintaining a 3.99 grade point average as an architectural engineering and construction management major.
Denfeld led the league in scoring, rebounding, and field goal percentage this season. In 25 games, she averaged a double-double of 20.2 points and 11.1 rebounds and shot a school-record 58.7 percent from the field. She posted 17 double-doubles and scored 20-plus points 12 times with four 28-point games and a 39-point outing on 17-of-19 shooting vs. Dominican on Feb. 11.
She became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,825 points. She also became just the second Raider, and third player in league history, to reach 1,000 career points and rebounds, achieving the milestone Feb. 1, and finishing her career with 1,054 career boards.
The first four-time all-league first-team member in NACC history, Denfeld has also been named to the 2017 Allstate Good Works Team this season as just one of five players from Divisions II-III and NAIA among the 10 players honored.
“I was just thrilled to hear Holly was chosen as a member of the 2017 WBCA Allstate Good Works Team,” said head coach Katie Nelson. “Her incredible academic and athletic achievements are only overshadowed by her volunteerism and desire to serve others. She is much deserving of this honor and all of us here at MSOE are so proud of her.”
The Good Works Team honors an outstanding group of student-athletes who represent the sport’s finest in the areas of community service and leadership among their peers.
As a junior Denfeld was named the recipient of the 2016 Josten’s Trophy by the Salem (Va.) Rotary Club. Denfeld was one of 10 women’s finalists for the award, which is awarded to an outstanding NCAA Division III men’s and women’s basketball player who excels on the court, in the classroom, and in the community. She is the second-straight junior to win the award and the third in its history.
The Jostens Trophy is a national award created by the Salem Rotary Club to honor the most outstanding men’s and women’s NCAA Division III basketball players of the year. The award takes into account three vital parts: basketball ability, academic prowess, and community service. The trophy models the Rotary International motto of “Service Above Self” by recognizing those who truly fit the ideal of the well-rounded NCAA Division III student-athlete.
“I am just a small-town girl doing what I love to do every day,” Denfeld said after receiving the award. “There are times where I feel stressed, exhausted, and think about quitting, but my end goals are what keep me going: I want our basketball team to make it to the NCAA tournament, I want to be an expert in my career after graduation, and I want to make a difference in the lives of others. I am honored to be recognized for my efforts and am truly blessed with the most amazing people who have helped me along this amazing journey.”
“Holly Denfeld is a tremendous student-athlete and person,” said Jessica Ott, Denfeld’s head coach during Denfeld’s first three seasons at MSOE. “This award is a fitting recognition for all of the hard work she has put in on the court, in the classroom and in the community.”
In addition to her dedication as a student-athlete, Denfeld has continually found time to be active in the community. She has logged numerous hours with Habitat for Humanity, Milwaukee Empty Bowls, Sam’s Hope, as well as with the Milwaukee Heart Walk and Walk for Diabetes and Kayla’s Krew.
MSOE played a major role in building Kayla’s Playground. From the MSOE website:
Through Servant-Leadership at MSOE, nearly 50 students were involved in the construction of the all-abilities playground dedicated to the memory of Kayla Runte. Kayla was diagnosed with hypotonia and cerebral palsy and by her first birthday she began having seizures. Kayla passed away when she was eight years old. Her parents wanted her memory to stay alive and dedicated their time to raising money to construct the playground and recruit volunteers from across the community to build it.
Students took their knowledge from the classroom and applied it in a real world experience. Holly Denfeld, a junior studying architectural engineering and construction management, learned how to get the perspective of both the architect and the engineer while making a difference in the community. “It is real life experiences like this that assure me that I’ve made the right career choice. Knowing that I helped create something that can touch the life of another is what I’m in this industry for.”
Denfeld has also been a student leader with the MSOE Student-Athlete Advisory Council and on campus.
I’m fully aware of the accomplishments of Holly Denfeld because as the public address announcer for MSOE Men’s and Women’s Basketball I’ve had the privilege and pleasure to watch her excel on the basketball court up close.
Last month Coach Nelson and her players took part in MSOE’s observance of National Girls & Women in Sports Day that recognizes the extraordinary progress sparked by Title IX and the ongoing effort to ensure access to sports for girls and women.
My daughter, Kyla, was invited to the MSOE Kern Center to partake in several sports drills, including some one-on-one time with her new heroine, Holly.
Thank, you Holly, for that and other great memories. Best of luck to you.
The next time you visit Kayla’s Playground think of the devotion and dedication of Holly Denfeld. Multiply that by hundreds and is it any wonder Kayla’s Playground is such a magnificent place?
Thanks to MSOE Sports Information Director Kevin Conway for providing statistical and biographical material.