Most children can recall early memories of playing their favorite sport on the weekends, channeling their energy into their passion. Throughout October and November, the Florida State Student-Athlete Advisory Council made it a personal mission to ensure that the gift of athletics reached as many children as possible in the Tallahassee community.
Women’s cross country student-athlete Tara Rooney approached track and field athleteHannah Acton over the summer while interning at the Sport Shed in Chicago. The organization is dedicated to promoting sports over violence for children in crime-ridden areas through donations of gently used sports equipment. Rooney believed there was a similar need for such a program in the Tallahassee area, and an initiative was born.
Rooney and Acton approached fellow SAAC members with their idea, and they enthusiastically agreed. Each member was responsible for taking donation bins to their respective locker rooms to collect donations of gently used equipment and apparel, such as basketballs, tennis racquets, shoes, jump ropes, etc.
“Sports have been such a big part of my life, and I wanted to be able to share that experience with kids who may not have the opportunity or resources to be active,” Rooney explained.
In addition to the locker rooms, SAAC set up donation bins in the lobby of the Moore Athletic Center, the Student Services office, and the administration office of the Athletic Department.
After placing the bins and collecting the donations, a group of 10 SAAC members and fellow athletes joined Rooney and Acton in taking the bins to the Big Bend Homeless Coalition to donate the equipment and spend some time playing with the children. The next recipient of the donations was the Boys and Girls Club of Tallahassee. Rooney and Acton hope to organize bi-weekly trips to both organizations with other Seminole student-athletes to play with the children.
“I hope that these donations will give these children a chance to be active and experience sports that they may not have been able to experience in the past.” Acton said when asked what she hopes to see accomplished through the initiative. The Seminole pole-vaulter added she wants children to have the chance to experience the same benefits of playing sports that she did.
Rooney and Acton both agree that the project has been a great success, and hope to make it an annual event that one day goes as far as to include other organizations on and off campus. With the holiday season in full swing, the happiness the project brought to the children in the community was what made the effort all worth it.
“Just being able to see the joy on their faces to be able to play soccer or throw around a football definitely showed us that we can make a difference, and that these kids just want to get in the game,” said Rooney.