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Many young women would gratefully take a bow after being honored for accomplishments such as these:

  • In 2012, Carissa Verkaik’s name was etched in the Calvin history books for her accomplishments on and off the basketball court.
  • During her junior year, Verkaik was named a Capital One Division III Academic All-American, becoming just the second person in Calvin women’s basketball history to earn that distinction. The All-American honor recognizes an athlete’s achievements both on the court and in the classroom.
  • In 2012, Verkaik helped lead the women’s basketball team to a 25-2 record. She was honored as the Division III News Player of the Year, the only Calvin women’s basketball player ever to be so honored, and subsequently named as Division III All-American.
  • An elementary education major who will be a senior this year, Verkaik has maintained a high grade point average. Last year she was named to the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Honor Roll.
  • Verkaik is noted for serving as a volunteer with the Special Olympics and with Youth Unlimited, a nonprofit ministry dedicated to youth.

But Verkaik takes very little credit for her gifts. She points to those of her brother, Chad, who has an intellectual disability, saying Chad has been a great inspiration to her.

“Growing up with him kind of put a passion in my heart to help kids,” she said.

“He’s definitely a blessing in all of our lives as a family. Chad (shows) us what a childlike faith is because he doesn’t care what people think of him.

“In church, he sings his lungs out; it doesn’t matter what key he’s in. And that’s what worship is supposed to be about. And he forgives. If someone offends him, he runs up the next day and gives them a hug.”

She considers her brother a singularly gifted person. “It’s all in your perspective on what a gift is. People often don’t recognize the inner gifting,” she said.

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