By Ashley Miller, UMBC Athletic Communications Intern
UMBC student-athletes are devoted to giving back to both the campus and neighboring community. These young men and women make significant contributions to society as often as they can. Teams as well as individual student-athletes are involved in numerous charity and community organizations.
“UMBC Athletics is proud of the work our student-athletes do in the community,” said Kelly Fahey, coordinator of student-athlete affairs at UMBC. “We are excited to further develop our relationships with the surrounding community and our partnerships with local organizations.”
This fall has been a busy semester for the Retrievers, as they raised money for various fundraisers, collected shoes for the less fortunate, and even met with younger children to discuss the importance of education and physical fitness.
Soles for Souls
On Oct. 20, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) organized its annual Soles4Souls drive and received over 200 pairs of sneakers, which will be given to those less fortunate. This is the third year student-athletes have collected for this organization, and it has proved to be the largest fundraiser for SAAC.
“The combination of the SAAC shoe sale and the Soles4Soules donation drive was a huge success,” SAAC event coordinator Laura Tilman said. “We were privileged enough to have a great turnout, and a large amount of shoes were donated.”
At the conclusion of the event, student-athletes delivered the collected shoes to a local warehouse; these will be packaged and shipped to different countries around the world.
Race for the Cure
The women’s basketball squad again participated in what has become a yearly event for the team, as they took part in Race for the Cure. Together, the team members collected over $1,000 for Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
“The amount of people that come out to support breast cancer patients and its awareness is more than I imagined prior to actually being part of it,” senior Topé Obajolu said. “People from men to women, children, and those not from the local area come together as one to show their support.”
This event continues to have a positive impact on all of its participants. Senior Michelle Kurowski added, “I was really inspired by all the family and friends that were at the race and walked and ran for their loved ones. They have so much strength and courage to fight through the difficult times.”
Young Life Capernaum is an organization that provides young people with mental and physical disabilities the opportunity to develop rewarding friendships and to test their boundaries while building self-esteem through different activities. The women’s basketball team invited a group of these Capernaum children to participate in one of their practices.
The Retrievers were not the only ones doing the helping; instead, the children had the biggest impact on the players. “Having the Capernaum group come to practice really put into perspective how fortunate we are to be doing what we love every day,” senior Erin Brownsaid. “It was great to talk to them and hear about what they like to do, as well.”
Meadowood Education Center
The men’s and women’s track and field teams visited Meadowood Education Center (MEC) on Oct. 19 to talk with students about the significance of education and physical fitness. MEC is a school dedicated to focusing on the needs of students who were unsuccessful in a traditional school setting. Team members used this opportunity to reach out and mentor these children.
“It is obvious that not all of them have access to the resources and guidance they need to be successful,” senior Ashly McClure said. “We hope that our visit with them is the impact they need to encourage them to take school seriously and make the effort to do well.”
League of Dreams
League of Dreams is an organization where children with all types of disabilities learn what it’s like to put on a jersey and play for a team. The UMBC baseball and softball teams spent a recent Saturday mentoring these young children, who were given the chance to live out their dreams.
“The kids were fun and engaged with all the activities, and most of them advanced in some of the skills,” junior Brian Klukowicz said.
This event turned out to be a success, and many of the student-athletes hope to continue working with League of Dreams in the future.
“Watching the kids work hard, have fun and cheer each other on was very inspiring,” seniorAshley Carver said. “I enjoyed the couple hours I was there with them and cannot wait to have the opportunity to do it again.”
Sophomore D.J. Smith felt the same way. “League of Dreams gives the children an opportunity, and it means a lot, not only to the children, but to me as well."
In a way, the event erased boundaries, as the only thing that mattered was the love of the sport. “To be able to give back to these kids that don't have a normal life is worth more to me than anything I could get on the field,” senior Josh Dick said. “I really was able to be thankful for what I have. This is my second time helping with a League of Dreams event and I will certainly do more."
Casey Cares Foundation
Casey Cares Foundation provides ongoing, uplifting programs with a special touch to critically ill children and their families. The UMBC men’s soccer team volunteered at a clinic with some of these children on Nov. 19, running soccer drills and giving the kids a reason to smile.
Junior Phil Saunders was especially inspired by these children, as his father passed away from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) last spring. “My dad went through a lot, and these children definitely hold a special place in my heart,” he said. “They touched me a lot.”
Jessica Bernheim, UMBC Assistant Director of Athletic Communications, contributed to this article.