By: Leo Dassa - Maryland Media Relations Student Assistant
BALTIMORE - The University of Maryland Department of Athletics, in conjunction with ShopRite and the YMCA of Central Maryland, helped usher in the Thanksgiving season by distributing 200 meals to less fortunate families Sunday at two Head Start locations in the greater Baltimore area.
Maryland’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee joined forces with the Student Government Association to hand out 200 Thanksgiving meals, sponsored by ShopRite. Each meal consisted of a turkey, box of stuffing, two five-pound bags of potatoes, cans of corn, green beans and yams as well as turkey gravy and cranberry sauce. More than 70 students participated in the event.
“It was really eye opening to witness firsthand how many families in our area need help and to be able to assist them in any way was incredibly rewarding,” Juli Strange, a sophomore on the softball team, said.
A main priority for this year’s SAAC was to collaborate more with the university’s SGA. This event gave both student-athletes and students alike an opportunity to embrace the surrounding community. The combined effort certainly did not go unnoticed to the families who directly benefited from the community service initiative.
“Every year I wonder about Thanksgiving so this is a great help and I am grateful,” Angela Burton, a native of Maryland, said. “Just to see the students come in. They come in smiling with excitement. It may not be the time of the month that a lot of parents get paid, so we can’t stop talking about how much we appreciate Maryland athletics for doing this.”
The Terps helped unload trucks, take all food items into the distribution area at each Head Start program and prepare the meals for circulation. Each meal was served with welcoming faces and accompanying high-fives for the kids.
“I really wanted to get involved, because I think it’s easy to get disconnected from surrounding communities when you’re in college,” Samara Cohen, a sophomore member of SGA, said. “I wanted to give back because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I think everyone should be able to enjoy a comfortable Thanksgiving meal.”
The event also provided some students with an extended sense of family while they are away from home.
“As an international student, sometimes I am not able to go home for Thanksgiving,” Mamadou Niang, a senior on the track & field team from Pretoria, South Africa, said. “When friends reach out to me and welcome me into their homes, it means a lot. So I feel like that is what we are doing for people at this event today.”
Carrie Blankenship, an associate athletic director for marketing at Maryland, helped organize the event and believes it provided a tremendous opportunity for the Terps to utilize their teamwork skills outside the playing field for a great cause.
“I think this was a great opportunity for our student-athletes to get out in their community and give back at a time of year that is important for us all to be thankful,” Blankenship said. “It was generous of ShopRite to donate 200 Thanksgiving meals for area families in need. To be able to be a part of delivering that food to families who might not have been able to share a Thanksgiving meal was something special.”