BATON ROUGE - Wrapping up the 2011-12 academic year, LSU student-athletes representing all 20 varsity sports logged over 3,700 hours of community service through the Geaux Givers' initiative.
"LSU student-athletes have literally taken on the new motto of the Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes: Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve," CCACSA Assistant Director for Diversity, Inclusion, and Civic Engagement Jade Bryan said. "The amount of support is tremendous that the Geaux Givers' initiative has received all the way up to Joe Alleva and Kenneth Miles, as well as from the coaches, student-athletes, the support staff, and organizations in the community. This emphasis has allowed for the growth and development of all of our student-athletes."
Highlighting the initiative is the involvement and participation of many student-athletes with the Big Buddy Program. By collaborating with the program many events were hosted, like the 13th annual Day of Mentor event, A Day in the Life of a Football Player, Big Buddy Zumbathon and Big Buddy Dancing with the Stars.
Many student-athletes of different sports also devoted much their time to the children at Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital. The men's basketball team made a special holiday visit where they wore Santa hats and walked room to room singing carols to the patients. Additionally, every patient received a miniature LSU basketball, basketball goal and basketball poster.
Individually, many teams adopted a personal focus on an organization to help. In their effort to raise awareness of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, members of the baseball team participated in the annual Walk to Defeat ALS in October.
In an effort to fight hunger in the community, women's Basketball hosted a holiday canned food drive for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. In addition, they visited the food bank twice to assist in boxing the food, which earned them recognition from the Food Bank as "Organization of the Month."
Members of the soccer team continued to strive to help the community through mentoring children at University Terrace Elementary School. In their third year with Kids Hope USA, each teammate was paired with a student to mentor once a week, therefore forming relationships and becoming role models to the students.
The gymnastics program also puts its best foot forward in community outreach as they collaborated with the McMains Children Developmental Center and helped host the Wheels to Succeed Bike Race for the fourth year. The gymnasts also continue to support the Bradie James' Foundation 56 for Breast Cancer Awareness.
Created in 1991, the Shaquille O'Neal CHAMPS/Life Skills Program is designed to enhance the total development of student-athletes. Student-athletes from every sport took part in both of their annual events, the Halloween BOOzar and Thanksgiving with the Tigers.
The 16th annual BOOzar provided over 500 local children with a safe and fun trick-or-treating environment, and canned goods were collected at the door for the SEC Together We CAN Food Drive and the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Thanksgiving with the Tigers allowed each sport to adopt an underprivileged child through St. Vincent de Paul for the night. The children and their families were treated to a Thanksgiving meal, then the student-athletes played games with the children and gifted them with presents.
"The community outreach component of the Life Skills program allows for our student-athletes to realize social responsibilities and have the opportunity to give back to the community that gives so much support to them," Bryan said. "It is our hope and mission to have model citizens leaving the university prepared to succeed in the next step of their lives."
Many student-athletes of different sports worked together to serve the community through their involvement in Habitat for Humanity, Read Across America and Girls on the Run.
Aside from each team's involvement in the community, individual players seized the opportunity to help as well. Recently graduated pitcher Brittany Mack spearheaded the Geaux Play program with a mission to encourage mentally and physically disabled children to be physically active. She asked the LSU softball fans for support in her goal and, with their help, successful donated over 400 pieces of sporting goods equipment to the Miracle League Association.
Another star in the community is volleyball's Lauren Waclawczyk, who championed the "Geaux Books" program in an attempt to restore the library at Dufrocq Elementary School. By collecting books at home games throughout the entire season, she was able to present 2,780 books to the students.
"We are certainly proud of the amount of community service work the student-athletes have put in over the last year," Bryan said. "We have seen a steady rise in volunteer work since our athletic director pushed for the creation of the Geaux Givers slogan, and he has continued to stress the importance of the commitment to community that comes along with representing LSU as a student-athlete."
In recognition for their outstanding community service, the following student-athletes received a spot on SEC Community Service Teams in the 2011-2012 school year: LaSondra Barrett (women's basketball), Katie Carroll (track and field), Timmy Dasinger (swimming & diving), Keri Frankenberger (women's tennis), Ericka Garcia (gymnastics), Brandon Gordon (track and field), Justin Hamilton (men's basketball), Jacqueline Hedwall (women's golf), Natalie Ieyoub (soccer), Brittany Mack (softball), Austin Nola (baseball), Stefan Szacinski (men's tennis), Lauren Waclawczyk (volleyball), and Sang Yi (men's golf).
At next year's Academic Excellence Gala, the winners of the Male and Female Volunteers of the Year awards and Community Service Cup, given to the top team, will be announced.