Last summer, University of North Florida Director of Athletic Communication Brian Morgan and former UNF men’s Golfer Joey Marino began discussing the impact of the Ospreys’ service to its Jacksonville, Fla., community.
What resulted was an understanding that while the Ospreys’ student-athletes enjoyed community service, they weren’t necessarily educated about the myriad of opportunities that were available to them.
“We have great student-athletes who want to be involved in community service, but we found that they didn’t have the outlets for that service,” said Morgan.
The discovery was one that prompted a regularly monthly initiative through which all of North Florida’s student-athletes have the opportunity to benefit others and themselves. This idea of regular monthly service was also presented to all of North Florida’s coaches prior to the beginning of the fall semester, and according to Morgan it was received with an overwhelming show of support.
“On the first Monday of every month an activity is now scheduled, and so the week prior we send an email to our coaches and also make sure to include the SAAC. Usually within an hour of the email going out, the signup list is full.”
That was the case in one of the Ospreys’ most special and recent activities, a visit to Wolfson Children’s Hospital. The UNF student-athletes toured several wings of the hospital visiting with patients of various ages ranging from five to those in their teens. The student-athletes don’t focus on the illnesses of the children they visit, but rather The North Florida Athletic Department has partnered with Wolfson's for student-athletes to visit several times during the 2014-15 academic year, the next of which is scheduled for the first Monday in February.
“Our student-athletes get excited about going to see the kids at the hospital” said Morgan. “The hospital has strict rules as to how many we can bring, so usually it ranges from six to 12. Also we can only bring certain things to give them, like the last time we took a plastic ball and had our student-athletes sign one for each of the kids.”
Matching the A-Sun’s mission of helping student-athletes strike the proper balance between student and athlete, North Florida’s new program of community service helps develop what Morgan calls the “whole person.”
“We do a good job at our institutions of developing the students in the classroom and the athletes in the competitive arenas, but this gives them the chance to grow even more,” Morgan said. “We are called to help them be a whole person, and to help them discover for themselves what it means to give back and how that impacts others.”
Projects have also included working at homeless shelters and participating in Habitat for Humanity, and a hopeful future initiative has eyes set of the local Ronald McDonald House that ministers to parents of seriously ill children.