Williamsburg, Ky. – University of the Cumberlands’ student-athletes from women’s lacrosse, football, baseball, and men’s wrestling teams traveled to three area elementary schools to become personal shoppers. Joining with the campus Mountain Outreach Ministry, the Patriots assisted students in picking out Christmas gifts for parents or grandparents.
The reactions of the children were heart-touching.
“Do we really get to pick whatever we want? It’s really free?” a Boston school student asked her teacher as she walked into the gym filled with gifts provided by Mountain Outreach. “This is so cool; My Nana will love this present, especially since I picked it out myself.”
Marc Hensley, director of Mountain Outreach, explained, “The purpose of Gift Day is to get children involved in the giving part of Christmas. We want the kids to understand the good feeling that comes from giving as well as from receiving.”
“It’s great to get the athletes involved, too, Hensley added. “Usually their practice and game schedules keep them from participating in other outreach opportunities, but this specific opportunity allows the athletes to connect with many of the children who play sports in the local elementary schools.”
The Mountain Outreach program raises funds throughout the year with which to purchase the gifts for the 735 elementary students to give to their loved ones for Christmas.
The athletes enjoy the influence they have on the students as well. Football junior, Tan Hudson from Annville, spoke about his first experience with the program.
“It’s a big day for these kids, knowing that they are able to give their parents a gift when they probably couldn’t otherwise,” Hudson said. “It’s great just to be able to talk to the kids, see their smiles, and share their day.”
The infectious giving spirit captivated the athletes as they spent time with the children. One player held a bright-eyed child up above the others so he could see the table of gifts to make his selection. Another made it a point to get each child he helped to laugh and have the biggest smile possible.
Mathias Brewers, a senior baseball player from Lebanon, Ohio, commented, “It’s always a good feeling to help out, but the best part is seeing the smiling faces on the kids when they leave knowing they’ll be able to give their loved ones a gift.”
Head Baseball Coach Brad Shelton spoke about the changes he has seen in his players through this program.
“It’s good for players to get involved in the community. It actually encourages our students as much as it does the children they help,” Shelton said. “It gives our students a chance to explore the area and become a part of the larger community, and it helps remind them that there are more important things in life than just school and sports.” (UC)