Dec. 15, 2011
CLEMSON, SC – Scholarship student-athletes find joy in a variety of ways, whether by making shots, catching passes, winning races, or hitting home runs. But when discussing what brings them the most joy, often the conversation is steered toward chances they have to give back to people in the community.
The Clemson men’s and women’s basketball teams were given that opportunity when they hosted children from the area at the Tiger Wonderland charity event at Littlejohn Coliseum. The players and coaches spent time with 35 youngsters from the greater Clemson area that come from impoverished backgrounds. The children enjoyed a meal with the student-athletes, coaches, administrators, support staff members, and their families; they received gifts that they got to enjoy with their favorite Tiger players; and Santa Claus even paid a visit to Littlejohn Coliseum.
The charity event was coordinated and organized by several entities, including BI-LO, Clemson Community Care, the Clemson University Athletic Department, and IPTAY. According to administrative representatives, seeing student-athletes interact with children from the community in such instances makes it worth the time and effort spent putting the itinerary together every single year.
“Everybody is so busy during this time of year,” Director of Marketing Mike Money said. “The teams are either playing or practicing. It’s a great thing to be able to take some time out and do something for the less fortunate. If it wasn’t for our relationship with BI-LO and what they do for us and the folks in the athletic department, starting with Lindsey Leonard and Meredith Merritt, who put this on and do a spectacular job with it, we wouldn’t be able to make this happen.
“It’s a joint effort between a lot of people, and it’s a really special night because it kind of allows everybody to take a step back and realize what’s really important.”
The rewards are not limited to the children, either. During what can be a particularly trying time for college students – final exam week – the festivities can provide an opportunity to be refreshed by the energy and excitement of local children experiencing immense blessing.
“It’s very heart-warming seeing these little kids open up presents,” women’s basketball forward Shaniqua Pauldo said. “It brings in the Christmas spirit. I’m just glad to be a Clemson Lady Tiger so I can witness things like this.”
For some, it is a way to stay in touch with the community that embraces the Tigers whenever they hit the basketball court.
“It’s great to give back and hang out with kids like this,” men’s basketball wing Tanner Smith said. “It’s truly great to reach out to the community and let them know that we’re thinking about them on Christmas. It’s good that they can come and enjoy a good time. It’s really rewarding for us.”
For one night, it did not matter how many baskets each Tiger player made or how many defensive stops the team had. At Monday’s Tiger Wonderland event, each individual had one task: to make Christmas special for a child. It serves as a reminder that giving back is truly the best way to celebrate the season.
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