Inside USD

Student-Athletes Make Christmas Merrier for Local Families

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

SAAC-photoConrad Smith is taking 18 units this semester and is on track to earn a business administration degree in May. He recently finished his fourth and final year as an offensive lineman for the football team and he works in the athletic department’s equipment office. Haley Pittman ’11 is a double major in communications and Spanish and is a member of the women’s swim team.

Still, being supremely busy student-athletes doesn’t complete them. Smith balances academics, football and a job with his role as president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council. Pittman is a co-vice president of the SAAC, which provides a forum for all USD student-athletes to have a voice. Together, along with 40 other USD student-athletes representing every USD sports team, they also spend ample time focusing on others.

“I think it’s really important for us to be more than just student-athletes,” Pittman said. “We’re so fortunate to attend this university and to play our sport. It’s important to remember to give back.”

The SAAC helps organize a variety of community service projects, including participation in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Walk to Cure Diabetes and the Light the Night Walk benefitting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The SAAC assists with the annual Junior Seau Foundation’s “Shop with a Jock” where underprivileged children are awarded a $100 department store shopping spree and are paired with USD student-athletes. The West Coast Conference and its member schools’ basketball student-athletes have participated in the Zappos.com/Soles4Souls Shoes Drive, which provides more than 5,000 pairs of shoes to children.

And now they’re working to make Christmas a little merrier for Linda Vista families. The SAAC is sponsoring the seventh annual Toreros Linking to the Community (TLC) Toy Drive, which started Nov. 13. Several USD athletes will wear Santa hats at Jenny Craig Pavilion and be on hand to collect new, unwrapped toys and encourage fans to “Donate a Dollar” toward the purchase of grocery store gift cards. This week, they’ll be at men’s basketball home games — Wednesday night against San Diego State and Dec. 9 vs. New Mexico — as well as at a USD women’s basketball home game this Thursday night vs. UNLV. Those who bring a toy on Dec. 9 can have their picture taken with Santa.

All donated toys will be given to children from the local YMCA youth program; gift cards will be given to families chosen by the Mission Valley YMCA on Dec. 11. Last year, USD’s efforts raised more than $1,500 to support 15 families, as well as toys to ensure that their children had something under the tree on Christmas morning.

Smith enjoyed his experience last year as “Santa Claus” when the gift cards and toys were distributed. “The look on the kids’ faces and the families explains it all. It was fun to hand out candy canes to the children and it was exciting to see all the Christmas spirit.”

Smith and Pittman want to outdo their efforts this year. “You always want to go above and beyond what you did the year before. We know it’s been a tough year for everyone, but when you’re doing an event like this, you realize it’s a great chance to band together and give back.”

Pittman  wants to get even more of the campus community involved. “Christmas is a time of giving and we want to get everyone into it.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

To donate, contact Sarah Rodrigues in the Office of Parent Relations at (619) 260-7767 or e-mail sarahw@sandiego.edu.

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