South Carolina student-athletes work hard in their sport as well as in the classroom, and the Gamecocks recently put that same effort into giving back to the community through the annual Week of Giving (Nov. 23-Dec.2). Student-athletes, as well as partners who are employees from ScanScoure, spent time in various community service opportunities last week at Harvest Hope Food Bank, Bright Horizons USC Daycare, Salvation Army Store, Meals on Wheels, Palmetto Assisted Living, Habitat for Humanity, and several area middle schools.
“The Week of Giving is such an amazing event, and I was so excited when I first got here,” said South Carolina Director of Life Skills Megan Stoltzfus. “Whether it’s packing meals for Meals on Wheels, sorting through donations at Salvation Army, or reading to children at local middle schools or day cares, it’s just a way for our student-athletes to give back to our community and say, ‘thank you’ for all the support they receive.”
“While our employees and USC’s student-athletes volunteer in the community throughout the year, the Week of Giving is a special time to focus on giving back to those who are less fortunate or in much need,” said John Harvey, Vice President of Worldwide Human Resources for ScanSource, Inc. “It’s always a pleasure for our ScanSource team to volunteer alongside the Gamecocks, as their commitment to community mirrors ours.”
“It’s just a really good way to give back, whether you’re playing with kids or working for Habitat for Humanity, there are a lot of great opportunities out there to help out in the community,” said junior equestrian Lizzie van der Walde. “It makes you feel good that you’ve impacted someone’s day or that you made someone smile. It’s a good feeling to use our time when we’re not at practice to help people out.”
Every South Carolina team was represented throughout the week.
“It’s always an honor to go back and serve the community, especially when it’s with little kids,” said Jay Urich, a freshman on the football team. “It’s just something I love to do. It’s fun to take a break from what we do every day on the field.”
“I always liked working with kids,” said senior swimmer Megu Seidenberger. “Growing up, I worked a lot with the Special Olympics. I just wanted to come here, read to them, play with them, and I think it relieved some stress, too. I just think it’s really important to give back because they’re going to grow up and be our future, so it’s important to show them the way, I guess.”
Even with practices, competitions, classes and preparing for exams; getting the student-athletes involved doesn’t require a lot of arm-twisting.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been more amazed by students than when I created the sign-in sheet, sent it out one afternoon, and by the next morning it was 75% full in one day,” Stoltzfus said. “I have never experienced anything like that in my career with asking people to sign up for community service events. Community service, selfless service, and giving back to this community is just so engrained in the culture here. It’s something our student-athletes are so passionate about.”
As athletes, we’re very blessed and people give us so much support. It’s just nice to be able to give back a little bit.Scott Stevens, junior golfer
“Volunteering has always been very important in my family,” said freshman women’s soccer student-athlete Jackie Schaefer, who took time out to volunteer before she and her team traveled to Orlando, Fla., for the College Cup. “We always talk about how important it is to our soccer family to be good people, so volunteering and doing community service helps makes you more than just an athlete and a student. It adds to the overall experience in trying to be good as an individual. We were so busy last week over Thanksgiving with the Elite Eight, so to take our mind off soccer for just a second to help other people is a good thing.”
The student-athletes could select from a wide variety of areas to help, and each had his or her own reason for doing so.
“I enjoy helping out in the community because I live here, and I’m from here,” said freshman golfer Jack Parrott who grew up in Columbia. “I’ve been here (Harvest Hope Food Bank) before on a school trip, and I wanted to come back again and help.”
“I wanted to keep myself humble,” added sophomore golfer Caleb Proveaux. “I like to give back, keep myself grounded, and never take anything for granted.”
The student-athletes also noted that giving a little bit of their time has its own rewards.
“I read a couple of books to the kids, and they are an energetic bunch,” said senior swimmer Meredith Vay, who volunteered at USC Daycare/Bright Horizons Child Development Research Center. “Then they learned about rocks. Then they’re going to find some rocks they can paint and put googly eyes on. Kids are just so fun. It’s a good way to give back, and it’s fun, too.”
“It means a lot to be able to give back to the community,” said junior golfer Scott Stevens. “As athletes, we’re very blessed and people give us so much support. It’s just nice to be able to give back a little bit.”
South Carolina routinely leads the SEC in community service hours by its student-athletes, and that competitive spirit carries over for each team.
“There’s a reason why we give a team community service award at the end of the year at our Gamecock Gala,” Stoltzfus said. “I have a rotating door of student-athletes who want to know where they compare in service hours to other teams. It’s not just a competition. They truly feel so passionate about the fans that support them and this community.”
“We are really intense when it comes to community service,” said volleyball graduate student Abreia Epps, who volunteered at Harvest Hope Food Bank. “Yeah, we want to have the most hours of any team and win [the community service award], but we just want to try to do everything we can to give back.”