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Students turn class project into community building and charitable ventures

Sports Administration students highlight local sports achievements and combine with alumnus for fundraiser

(December 1, 2021) - Laurentian University's School of Sports Administration consistently recruits, retains and graduates top students. Amongst their current student body include longtime best friends Tommy Vlahos and Alex Cimino. Born and raised in Sudbury, both are fourth year students who with their friend and producer, Mason Savage, founded the podcast Behind the Bench (BTB). The podcast showcases Northern Ontario talent, and started off in October 2020 as a class project in their Sports Media & Communications class. 

“We found ourselves in a cool spot - a kind of niche area where no one covered Northern Ontario athletic talent, where people are doing really amazing things,” said Cimino. Added Vlahos, “we have different guests from a wide range of sports on the show. It’s been an incredible and very fulfilling experience so far.” 

Guests to date have included professional women’s hockey player and member of Canada's National Women’s Team, Rebecca Johnston, National Hockey League players Nick Foligno (Boston Bruins) and Marcus Foligno (Minnesota Wild), and curler and Laurentian alumna, Sara Guy, who represented Northern Ontario at the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts

While Vlahos and Cimino are passionate about bringing attention to Northern Ontario talent via their podcast, and spoke fondly about their comedic banter on BTB, they are equally invested in charitable ventures. “This summer, we at BTB, with the matching support of local Sudbury business, Velco Machining, hosted golf matches that we called “Bench Brawls” to raise roughly $2,000 for the Hearts Playbook,” said Vlahos. This foundation strives to build stronger communities in heart health. 

BTB also recently partnered with Ottawa-based apparel line, mssn, to develop a special edition hoodie. One of the company’s founders is SPAD alumnus, Roberto Bagnato. Like BTB, mssn is dedicated to charitable efforts; 5% of their sales benefit the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa. “mssn’s primary mission is to raise awareness for youth mental health,” said Bagnato. “It’s about breaking down that stigma. COVID has especially played a toll on a lot of people’s mental health. We miss how things used to be. We miss our friends. We miss vacations. We miss everything. That’s how we at mssn came up with our business name. We came to the realization that we had something here.” While the idea to develop mssn began in March 2020, it was in June 2020 that mssn celebrated its official launch. 

Cimino, Vlahos, Savage, and Bagnato look forward to future collaborations between BTB and mssn. Explained Cimino, “we want to continue giving back to the Sudbury community, so that’s something we’re looking into for 2022.”

Tune into BTB, currently airing on a bi-weekly basis on Apple Podcasts and Spotify
BTB can be followed on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube
mssn can be followed on their website and Instagram