The Pokes and the Salvation Army: A Winning Combination

Dec. 9, 2003


University of Wyoming SAAC web site

Throughout the month of December, the University of Wyoming Athletic Department is teaming-up with the local Salvation Army to partake in numerous community service events. On December 15th, the members of the UW athletic department will conduct a canned food/toy drive prior to their annual Christmas Party. On December 17th, another toy drive will be conducted prior to the UW Cowboys/Tennessee State basketball game (7:00 pm). Everyone who brings a new, unwrapped toy (infancy to 18 years of age) will receive a discount coupon which can be redeemed at the Brown N' Gold Outlet.

The Cowboys and Cowgirls also organized the first annual Christmas Party for underprivileged children (1st - 8th grade) on December 7th. The Christmas Party was the result of brainstorming meetings by the Community Service Committee of the University of Wyoming Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). SAAC Community Service chairperson Channing Kimball stated, "We wanted to do a party for the children last year, but we got a late start. So this year we started our meetings early so we could knock-out all the details."

When the final proposal was completed, SAAC approached the local Salvation Army about getting involved. The Salvation Army posted the Christmas Party information in their office so that the interested children could sign-up. The sign-up list included the child's name, age, gender, parents' name/s and phone number. "We thought it was a great idea," Major Marjorie Hall, Women's Ministries Coordinator, said. "However, we were a little skeptical since we had never done it before. We were amazed about how quickly the list filled-up."

Once SAAC received the list of children, they started their fundraising efforts. The representatives gave money from their own pockets and received donations from their teammates and coaches. In total, close to $500.00 was raised. "I was overwhelmed," Sarah Kuennen, Academic Coordinator and SAAC Administrator, explained. "I thought we would raise a couple hundred dollars, but not that much." It was an overall effort. I am so proud of our student-athletes and coaches."

The money was used to buy the children presents. Each child received a present (age-appropriate) of similar value (a maximum of $10-$15 per present). "Going to Wal-Mart to buy the presents was almost as much fun as the Christmas Party," Jennifer Hancock, SAAC President and member of the UW tennis team, stated. "It was like being a little kid again."

On the day of the party, over 30 student-athletes showed-up an hour early to set up. The student-athletes put up a Christmas tree, a refreshment table (cookies and drinks) and set-up the "big chair" for a visit from Santa. In addition, each team was responsible for organizing a "Christmas-themed" activity station. The stations ranged from "Pin the Nose on Rudolph" to the "Elf Golf Putting Contest."

Approximately 15 children attended the party. "We were a little disappointed in the turnout," explained Megan Shuster, SAAC rep and member of the UW volleyball team. "We invited 27 children overall. However, the 15 that did come had a great time and so did we (the student-athletes). Next year we will invite more children. I think this event will get bigger and better every year."

For over an hour, the children ran, played and ate. Then came the visit from Santa. "Drew (Andrew Severn, football) was a great Santa," said Jody Sanborn, SAAC rep and a member of the UW track & field team. "The kids were so excited to sit on his lap and get their presents."

Although the original purpose of the party was to provide underprivileged children a chance to experience Christmas and have fun, it ended up being so much more. "It was a positive experience for everyone," explained Eric Brey, Associate Athletic Director. "The children really look-up our student-athletes and I thought they did a real good job with all aspects of the party. I felt a real sense of pride watching our student-athletes talk to the children during the activities about having a positive outlook and being a good sport. To the children, it was all about having fun."

With the overwhelming success of the event, everyone is excited for next year. There is even talk of doing an Easter Party. However, no matter what happens in the future, everyone who participated in this year's Christmas Party has something to be proud of.