South Carolina student-athletes recently took part in the athletics department's annual Week of Giving from November 30 through December 6. The Gamecocks were involved in the week-long initiative in giving back to the community by volunteering their time meeting with children at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital, feeding the homeless at Transitions Recovery Center, organizing rooms at the Ronald McDonald House, preparing and delivering food to the homes of senior citizens for Meals on Wheels, packing donated goods at Harvest Hope Food Bank, assisting at the local farm, City Roots, and speaking to children at area schools among other service opportunities.
"We are athletes, but then again we have to serve our community like anyone else," said Wil Crowe, a junior on the baseball team. "Every athlete loves to give back to the community, and we love to be out here and do what we can to help them, so it's a big deal."
"Sign-ups for the Week of Giving were great," said Erica Nelson, Director of Life Skills and Community Outreach. "Now into our third year, it has become more routine for some student-athletes and teams. In planning this event, I was strategic in providing multiple options each day so that student-athletes could participate as their schedule and interest allowed."
There were 21 service opportunities during the week, and more than 100 student-athletes from all of South Carolina's athletics programs participated while performing just under 175 hours of community service, even with final exams looming.
"With school winding down, it's the perfect time to give back to the community," said Raina Johnson, a senior on the women's soccer team. "It's a stressful time with exams, but with our season being over, it's perfect to fill that time with giving back to the community because they've given so much to us throughout the season by showing their support."
"As a student-athlete, you hone in on your time management skills, so this is not a problem at all for us to do it," said Thomas Mayronne, a redshirt sophomore on the men's tennis team. "This is a recurring thing for us. We lead the SEC in community service hours, and you feel like you're getting something out of it as well, so you continually want to come back to these places and do it again."
The Week of Giving is by no means the only time the Gamecocks are active in the community. South Carolina student-athletes led the SEC last year with more than 8,860 community service hours. Earlier this fall, nearly all of the South Carolina teams participated in efforts to assist flood victims in the Columbia area.
"The level of involvement is consistent with the culture of giving back at South Carolina, as witnessed not just in their participation in the flood recovery efforts, but their overall dominance in community service hours performed compared to their SEC brethren," Nelson said. "South Carolina led all schools in the conference by over 3,000 hours last year."
"It's always important to give back to the community, especially as student-athletes," Mayronne said. "We can have a special impact on people, and it's really good to see how we can make a difference for people in our community. You feel really good about it after you've done it, and it just reflects how our athletics department does such a good job of getting us involved in the community."
Every student-athlete is required to do some community service throughout the year, but Nelson said that many of the Gamecocks offer their time beyond what is expected of them. Macey Webb, a junior on the softball team, took part in several service projects during the week, including an opportunity to meet with patients at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital.
"I just enjoy being with kids," Webb said. "Kids that are sick around the Christmas holidays, I know it is rough and it's hard on their families, so anything we can do to help the kids and families is important."
"Our team is really big on community service, and we try to give back every week as a team and individually," said Maddie Frome, a junior on the beach volleyball team who helped out at City Roots. "I love helping here. We've helped plant before and package the microgreens."
A recurring theme among the Gamecock volunteers was how they gained an appreciation for what they have as student-athletes.
"It's fun to get out here and be at the Ronald McDonald House and help families and help the volunteers preparing for the families to come in," said Sindarius Thornwell, a junior on the men's basketball team. "It's my first time coming to any Ronald McDonald House, so it's a good experience for me."
"My great grandparents helped raise me, and I grew up in that culture to serve others," Webb said. "My dad is in the military and my mom is a school social worker, so I've always seen them helping people. I've always just wanted to help people."