Several lawns in multiple communities across New York are looking a bit nicer thanks to the helping hands of student-athletes at various State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) athletes. Hundreds of them from multiple schools including Cortland, New Paltz, Potsdam, Oswego, Brockport, Fredonia, and Oneonta raked leaves for the elderly and other community members in their respective neighborhoods last weekend. It's part of an annual community service project that schools across the SUNYAC participate in, led by the institutions' Student-Athlete Advisory Committees (SAAC).
At Brockport, student-athletes raked lawns at 24 different homes for people who were in need of the help. "It truly is a great event as we bring together all of our athletic teams for a day to go out into the community as one athletic department, and show how grateful we really are for what the community does for us in terms of support," Brockport SAAC President Reilly Workman explained.
Workman, a junior catcher for the Golden Eagles, has been a part of lending a helping hand in the Brockport community for three years. "It means more and more to me each year," he shared. "I was raised by my parents to remember that there is someone who does not have the opportunities that I have, so it is important to give back to others."
Lexu Abernathy, a junior on the Brockport softball team, said feedback from those who receive the help is overwhelmingly positive. "Everyone I have talked to says they are really appreciative of what we do for them," she explained. "They are thrilled that we take time out of our busy school time and athletic schedules to help others out, and not just look out for ourselves."
At New Paltz, student-athletes from more than a dozen teams grabbed their rakes to help out in their community. "The individuals who were signed up for this event were actually waiting for this event the whole fall and expressed how excited they were for us to come and help them," New Paltz senior Samantha Ackerman, a member of the field hockey team, said. "The New Paltz community outside of campus is so supportive in what we do and to have the opportunity to provide a helping hand to the elderly community is such a rewarding and humbling feeling."
"We have the ability to make people happy and to make people's lives easier, which is as rewarding if not more rewarding than succeeding in the sports we play," added New Paltz senior baseball player Danny Campbell. "When it comes down to it, we're in a position to make a difference as student-athletes and it's great to see us take advantage of it."
Meanwhile, Potsdam student-athletes helped rake 18 properties throughout the village, while also putting in over four hours as a group at Bayside Cemetery. The men's basketball team also volunteered at Hope Church with the Potsdam Snack Pack program, which provides food to local youth. The men's lacrosse team also sent players out to Norwood's Head Start to clean up the playground area.
Student-athletes work hard all year to be the best they can be for their teams, but taking some time to work hard for their neighbors is equally important - afterall, the student-athletes know their communities are a big reason they can perform on the field in the first place. "From monetary donations, to feeding us, you name it. Our community supports us," Workman said.
"We are all privileged to be able to represent a university and play the sport we love," New Paltz junior James Hennessy, a member of the men's soccer team, shared. "It's important to take the time to show the community that we don't just attend New Paltz to play soccer, but to grow as people and help improve New Paltz as a community."