By Lauren Logan
UA Media Relations
On Saturdays, the Tuscaloosa community comes out to support the University of Alabama football team, but on many other days of the week the Crimson Tide players support the community.
Through the CHAMPS/Life Skills program, student-athletes at the Capstone perform a wide variety of good deeds that range from reading to elementary school children to donating a collective $3,000 of their per diem money to Hurricane Katrina victims.
Last year, the Crimson Tide football team put in approximately 1,000 hours of community service. Their reasoning, they say, is quite simple.
“I just like it,” said Will Oakley, a sophomore wide receiver. “On Mondays, we would go over to Holt Elementary School and read to the kids. You could just tell in their eyes how excited they were.”
A common love among the Tide’s football players who volunteer was their work with children.
“The kids keep me motivated. Just seeing their faces light up makes it all worth it,” said Tim Castille, Alabama’s senior fullback who is a veteran of the team and the CHAMPS/Life Skills program.
Oakley, Castille, Charles Hoke, Cory Reamer, Juwan Simpson and Marlon Davis are just a few of the other players who regularly visited elementary schools last year to give back to the community and are among the quickest to volunteer their time.
“You realize how much the kids look up to you and it really puts things in perspective,” said Reamer, a sophomore free safety.
The players also spent some time last year at the University’s Recreation Center with Hurricane Katrina evacuees. No one asked them to do it. DeMeco Ryans, a senior then, literally woke up one morning with the idea and soon the idea grew among the team.
The facility served as a shelter for hundreds of Gulf Coast evacuees who were forced to flee from their homes before and after the hurricane. Alabama’s football players served them food, played games with the kids and, so moved by the evacuees’ plight, the players even donated personal items that might lift a kid’s spirit, be it a glove they used as part of their practice gear, a t-shirt or a football.
And, instead of spending the NCAA-approved per diem they receive for meal money for a football game day, the entire team unanimously elected to donate their meal money to the hurricane victims. Alabama’s coaching staff and their families gave generously, as well.
Karin Lee, Alabama’s assistant athletics director who serves as the director of the CHAMPS/Life Skills program is very proud of the Crimson Tide’s football players for being so involved. She says it’s not just a few who are willing to volunteer, it’s a team effort.
“They all do some much. It’s hard to pick just one who stands out for his work,” said Lee.
The community gets a lot out of the football players’ help, but the players believe the return is greater for them. The little things make it all worth it, from the satisfaction of seeing the joy in a child’s face to the heartfelt thanks that come from people who lost family members, friends, homes and possessions during Hurricane Katrina.
They know at least for one moment in someone’s life, they made it better.