The gift of giving.
UCF student-athletes volunteered last week at charities and organizations across the Central Florida region. The weeklong event is called Knights Without Borders.
The program was made to present an opportunity for UCF student-athletes, staff and administrators to travel around the world on international service-learning trips. In recent years, KWOB has been to Panama in 2013, the programs inaugural trip, Ireland in 2014, St. Vincent & The Grenadines in 2014 and 2015, and last year at Costa Rica in 2015. Their initiative is to provide cross-culture experiences, while developing a sense of world unity.
However, this was the first time the program was giving back to the local Orlando community.
“As a staff we were excited to bring a week of service for UCF student-athletes and staff to give back to the Orlando community,” said Assistant Director of Student-Athlete Welfare and Development Teresa Brown in a UCF press release. “In the Office of Student-Athlete Welfare and Development, we are always looking to provide developmental experiences for our student-athletes and we look to build on this week and continue the tradition in the future.”
Throughout last week, many UCF student-athletes were involved in activities, such as building a house with Habitat for Humanity, packing food for the needy and playing sports with children as part of the event. Each day was a new adventure with goals to accomplish around the Orlando community.
The busy week began last Monday on July 11, as the UCF student-athletes traveled to Freedom Ride in the morning, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching lives of adults and children with disabilities through therapeutic horseback riding. The Knights got to work by repainting fences around the horse stables.
Then, on Monday afternoon, the Knights went to the Orlando Rescue Mission where they played games like kickball, basketball and soccer with the children there. By being active and having fun outside with the kids, the UCF student-athletes were able to make these less fortunate kids happy and take their minds away from their economic situation. For a brief moment, they were able to be normal kids.
It meant something special to UCF football’s Michael Willet, who was proud to help out and give back to his local community.
“It’s definitely an honor to be out here to help the community and give back,” said football player Michael Willett said in a press release. “Especially since this is the town that supports us. Giving back means a lot to me.”
The following day, the Knights gave a helping hand to the Second Harvest Food Bank to help package food. They were able to provide meals to the hungry and homeless, which is an act that doesn’t go unnoticed to them.
Next, the Knights took their talents to Habitat for Humanity starting on Wednesday, July 13, which was the first of four days the UCF student-athletes would be working with them. Their main project was to help build a house for a family in need.
The Knights painted the outside of the house in the hot summer heat, watered plants and gardens at other homes, installed drywall throughout the home, painted window shutters and added touchup paint to the new home’s siding.
After a long process, the Knights completed the house. Now a future homeowner awaits a finished product.
UCF Athletics Director Danny White knows the importance of giving back to the community.
“I think it’s awesome,” said White in a press release. “It’s a lot of fun to see our young men and women give back to the community that I know they’re so passionate about.”
Athletes have a responsibility to give back to their community. They are looked up too as role models. Not enough athletes are using their platform to help the greater good by volunteering and spending their time helping out others.
By showing good faith in the local community, that could go a long way for fan support to future UCF Athletic games. With effort and dedication displayed around the community, that possibly got the attention of some Orlando residents in the area.
Returning the passion the local fans typically show the student-athletes is something they can appreciate. The Knights get a little taste of how it feels on the other side of things, by giving their time and energy to show commitment. It can be a rewarding feeling.
UCF Men’s Tennis Player Reece Acree summed up the week perfectly.
“Overall, this week was an unbelievable experience full of love, sweat and tears,” Acree said. “But it was a very special feeling to be able to interact with the people in our community and truly give back and make an impact on peoples’ lives.”
The UCF Knights student-athletes are putting in hard work both on and off the field this summer.
Hard work does pay off. As does giving back.