Student-athletes have a lot on their plates, but they believe in giving back and, even more importantly, they are making the time to do it.
Recent NCAA surveys show 56 percent of male and 67 percent of female student-athletes believe they have a responsibility to participate in volunteer or service activities in their communities. More than 80 percent of student-athletes volunteer at least once a year, while 44 percent serve at least a few hours a month with a variety of organizations, both local and national.
NCAA schools work closely with Team IMPACT, which pairs young children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses with college sports teams. In just three years, 511 children have been paired with teams at more than 250 NCAA colleges and universities across all three divisions. Many of these children sign “Letters of Intent” and receive uniforms, and truly become members of the team, fostering a new support system as they face challenging health obstacles.
In 2003, the Division II SAAC established an official partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Throughout the course of the year, DII student-athletes spend time fundraising for Make-A-Wish, and during the 2013-14 year they set a new fundraising record of $567,778. Last year, five top-fundraising Division II schools hosted wish reveal parties in which recipients learned their wishes had been granted.
Division III, meanwhile, has established an official partnership with Special Olympics. Student-athletes across the country take part in existing Special Olympics events, create their own events – like sports clinics and bowling outings – and participate in fundraising efforts.
In addition to year-round community outreach efforts and partnerships, NCAA schools, student-athletes and national office staff members take special time during the holiday season to give back to those around them. Some teams will serve meals to the less fortunate. Others adopt entire families and purchase gifts for the children. Many will participate in an entire “Week of Giving,” including visiting Ronald McDonald houses and providing clinics for local youth.
Regardless of the activity, student-athletes credit community service as a rewarding opportunity that enhances their college experiences.