Members of the the UMES baseball team helping a Holly Center resident at Operation Teddy Bear

Dec. 14, 2011

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - The holiday season is a very special time of the year for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore athletics department. During the past month, Hawks athletics has been busy with NCAA tournament appearances, preseason instructional practices and several home athletic events. With the addition of final exams, a huge load can often be placed on the shoulders of the student-athlete. Naturally, one would think that any down time goes towards relaxation.

Think again.

UMES has had three teams take initiative on being a part of the season of giving. This season, almost 50 UMES student-athletes have volunteered their time towards goodwill efforts.

The men’s baseball and golf teams were the first programs to venture into the community this season as the pair volunteered at the Holly Center’s Operation Teddy Bear on Saturday, Dec. 3. Operation Teddy Bear, which is in its 28th year, takes residents into the community and is coordinated to broaden the Christmas spirit.

The “Christmas Cruise” saw more than 25 Perdue Farms tractor-trailers and decorated fire engines take patients on an 11-mile cruise around the Salisbury bypass. The festivities of the event also included a thanksgiving luncheon. The luncheon proved to be a great opportunity for residents, student-athletes, community members and coaches to get to know one another while sharing a healthy meal.

A total of 40 UMES student-athletes, including all 10 members of the golf team, were present at Operation Teddy Bear. The program was broken into three different stations, with the first station catering to mildly challenged participants and the other two stations serving those confined to a wheelchair.

“We have been a part of this for the past four years,” said head baseball coach Will Gardner. “It’s a great way to kick off the Christmas season. I’m happy to be a part of it again this year and the team had a good time being involved. The program is great for both sides as the team get as much out of the event as the patients do.”

The positive experience was seen from the golf team as well. The 10 participants, who manned two different stations, used the experience to learn about themselves.

“It’s a reality check for some of them,” said head golf coach Jamila Johnson. “The event showed the team how blessed they really are. The guys enjoyed the community service and the interaction they shared with the other groups. They all left will a certain level of gratefulness.”

The goodwill efforts for UMES athletics did not stop with Operation Teddy Bear as the golf and men’s basketball teams donated time to ringing bells for the Salvation Army.

The golf team provided their second goodwill effort of the season and third appearance of the year when they rang bells outside of Macy’s in Salisbury on Friday, Dec. 9. The Hawks spent three hours of their time collecting money for the organization.

The men’s basketball team opened their holiday giving when they volunteered at the Sam’s Club in Salisbury on Monday, Dec. 12. A group of four players and head coach Frankie Allen stood outside of the exit doors and rang bells for approximately two hours. Their efforts did not end there as they spiced up the volume by signing traditional holiday carols.

“It felt great to serve others and help people especially in the holiday season,” said sophomore guard Gregory Womack. “I always enjoy making people smile and uplifting their spirits. Any opportunity to serve, I take advantage of it.”

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