By Uyen Nguyen
For Unwind magazine
Student athletes and the athletic staff at the University of Maryland are paying it forward this year by participating in Share the Shell, a community outreach program that was announced on Oct. 22.
Though the athletics department has been involved in community service in the past, Share the Shell houses all of the community service efforts under one umbrella.
“We wanted to develop a program that houses all of our community service efforts,” said Sue Sherburne, a senior associate athletic director for academics and student development. “So whether it was individual teams going out, whether it was part of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, if there were things on campus that we could help to promote, if there were things we did as a department-wide as a staff.”
It’s a way to “cross-collaborate” between the different teams.
“We feel like it’ll help to expand the outreach that we’re able to do,” Sherburne said.
“These four categories are how the initiatives are organized,” said Madison Martin, a senior softball player and SAAC community outreach representative.
Share the Shell also makes it easier for the student athletes or any organization to start a Do Good initiative.
If an athletic team wants to initiate an outreach, they can get approval from the compliance office in Share the Shell and receive support from other teams or staff to expand that outreach.
If an organization is looking for student athletes to do an outreach, they can fill out a request form on Share the Shell’s website.
“Sometimes the SAAC will plan events and through Share the Shell, they send out emails to the athletes to recruit them and encourage them to join in on the efforts,” Martin said.
According to Share the Shell’s press release, under health and wellness, this university’s athletes and athletic staff has worked with the Central Y of Baltimore Sports Day, Children’s Hospital of DC, Team IMPACT, senior citizens support, Special Olympics and Uplifting Athletes.
Under civic engagement, they have partnered with Capital Area Food Bank, Catholic Charities of DC, House of Ruth, TerpsGiving, Toys for Tots, Holidays Adopt-a-Family, military and first responders appreciation.
Under education and literacy, they have collaborated with local schools, Prince George’s County Reading Days, teacher appreciation and field trips.
Under leadership and mentoring the athletes have been involved in programs such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Best Buddies, Terps Leadership Academy and more.
“We want to show how appreciative we are to everyone and do what we can for our community because we are very fortunate that we get to represent the Maryland Athletic Department and the University of Maryland,” Martin said.
Almost 90 percent of student athletes said that they regularly engage in community service, according to this year’s NCAA GOALS study.
“We wanted to make sure that students and staff that are involved have a good experience,” said Sherburne. “Being involved in community service gives student athletes the chance to not only be engaged in the community but makes them good citizens as well.”
The program itself has impacted the lives of athletes like Martin, who said she is glad she has been able to make a difference within the community and be a part of something bigger than herself.
“I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by great peers who really want to use their platform as a student-athlete for more than sports,” Martin said. “We have had a lot of success and participation thus far in the events and programs we have implemented and we expect the same reaction in the next semester.”
One recent Share the Shell initiative occurred on Nov. 20 when athletes participated in the fourth annual TerpsGiving meal drive by preparing and handing out Thanksgiving meals to families in need at the Amazing Grace Lutheran Church.
In the spring semester, the athletic department is looking forward to FanFest, the spring football game where the athletics teams can promote all of the organizations that they raise money for. They will be partnering with the Special Olympics and raising money for Kids Versus Cancer with the annual kickball tournament.