Thanksgiving was last week, but this week South Carolina student-athletes are giving thanks to the local community through the Fourth Annual Week of Giving which runs November 28 through December 4. More than 100 South Carolina student-athletes representing every Gamecock program are expected to participate in a wide variety of community service throughout the week.
“Our student-athletes know it’s coming every year now, so there’s some excitement about it,” said Erica Nelson, director of life skills and community outreach. “It’s just good for us to give back to the community each year. We’ll have at least 100 student-athletes participating.”
“As student-athletes, a lot of people think that our sports characterize who we are,” said junior softball student-athlete Jordyn Augustus, who is the community service chair for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). “We take pride in the fact that we are more than our sports. We make a difference. We are going to remember the games we played, but what we’re really going to remember is the impact that we’ve left and the people that we are able to help. We can sit back around Thanksgiving and see all of the things that we have, so it’s important for us to go out and help others that aren’t as fortunate.”
“The Week of Giving is a time we can give back and show everyone in the community how much we appreciate their support,” said junior baseball student-athlete Wil Crowe. “Some people aren’t as lucky as we are to have what we have, so for us to be able to give back a little bit, it can be heartwarming.”
The Gamecocks are volunteering at local elementary and middle schools, Ronald McDonald House, Meals on Wheels, City Roots, Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, Harvest Hope Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity among other places.
The Week of Giving is a time we can give back and show everyone in the community how much we appreciate their support.Wil Crowe, Baseball student-athlete
“We’re going to go to the retirement home and make gingerbread houses with them,” Augustus said. “We had set up an event over Halloween to carve pumpkins with them, and that was a big hit, so we want to go back. Some of those folks love it because they don’t have family come to see them as often as others. It can get kind of lonely around the holidays, so it’s great for us to get out there and do something.”
“I really enjoy going to talk to the kids at the schools,” Crowe said. “I enjoying talking to some kids one-on-one and getting to know them a little bit. They look up to us. I remember when I was a little kid, it meant a lot when I had a chance to meet college athletes.”
“The goal every year for me is to have greater outreach,” Nelson said. “This year, I’m trying to incorporate some new community partners. There is so much need here in Columbia, and I want to make sure we are ‘spreading the wealth’ and touching different areas that may not always get the volunteer support that they need.”
Augustus noted that some of the student-athletes got a jump-start on their efforts by volunteering before Thanksgiving break as well.
“We went to the Harvest Hope Food Bank to help package meals to go to different places,” Augustus said. “All of us were thinking, why don’t we come here more often? Everything there is donation-based. They have things coming in every day and it’s sent out every day, and it’s all done by volunteers. We were able to get it all out, and to know that those boxes of food were going to get right out to people that needed it made us feel awesome.”
South Carolina has led the SEC in community service hours for the last two years and it has become part of the culture among the student-athletes.
“The student-athletes really want to help,” Augustus said. “The hardest thing is just our schedule. If there is an opportunity for us to do something, we’re going to do it. Whether it’s going to a school one morning and reading to kids or go later in the day in between meals, we’ll do that. People here want to help. Getting people involved isn’t hard. It’s finding a good time slot that is the hardest part.”
“The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) has done a great job of getting the word out to their teammates each year to get a lot of people involved,” Nelson said. “It’s not a hard sell at all. They look forward to it. It’s about giving them multiple opportunities to take part during the week. That way, if they have a lot of academics and athletics commitments during the week, they can find out what fits their schedule.”