Athletes in the Community Archives - Athletes for Hope

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Athletes in Action

Athletes in Action

Serving Up Food, Friendship and Gratitude

Written by: Kenya Warren-Hollis, MPA, Program Manager, AFH University

For our AFH University student-athletes, the weeks before Thanksgiving are often met with studying for finals, trips back home, and winter workouts. For our Baton Rouge campuses, the week before Thanksgiving also meant an opportunity to give back to various members of their community through a week-long service project they entitled “Baton Rouge Serves With Purpose.”

As our AFH University campuses are focused on tackling the disparities of food insecurity this winter, our AFH U Baton Rouge student-athletes wanted to do their part by volunteering at various community organizations that routinely provide food, warmth, and friendship to those less fortunate.

Monday, November 14

The LSU Beach Volleyball Team kicked off AFH Baton Rouge’s “Serves with Purpose” week at Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank (GBRFB). The team worked together and assembled Thanksgiving meal boxes that were then distributed to GBRFB’s eleven parish service areas- many of which experience high levels of food insecurity. 

I enjoyed getting a chance to give back during a season centered around being grateful. It was nice to have an opportunity to remind me of all I have to be thankful for.

Reilly Allred, LSU beach volleyball

In preparation for the EBR Council on Aging’s Annual Thanksgiving luncheon, Southern Softball stopped by The Baker Municipal Center a day before the big event to help with set up. They were able to set up over 60 tables and 480 chairs to accommodate senior citizens attending the event on Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 15

Southern University Volleyball had the pleasure of serving over 400 seniors from East Baton Rouge Council on Aging centers including Baker Senior Center, Greater King David Senior Center, Jewel J. Newman Senior Center, and Chaneyville Senior Center.

Event attendees were thankful for the extra hands as student-athletes and coaches assisted them throughout the luncheon. The team even had the opportunity to meet Councilwoman Chauna Banks, Constable Terrica Williams, and City of Baker Mayor, Darnell Waites.

Wednesday, November 16

Student-athletes from LSU Gymnastics and Golf continued our biweekly visit to Our Lady of the Lake Children’s hospital. They had the opportunity to read books in the activity room, facilitate games, and visit patient rooms.

I loved having the opportunity to serve at OLOL children’s hospital and being able to make a small difference in a child’s day. Seeing them smile when in a difficult circumstance is a beautiful thing.

Michael Sanders, LSU Golf

Thursday, November 17

Southern University Football continued our AFH BR “Serves with Purpose” Week at St.Vincent de Paul. Student-athletes served lunch on a serving line, passed out to-go lunches, and engaged with guests throughout the visit. Before each lunch, dining hall coordinators take the time to pray with guests. AFH Intern and Southern student-athlete Caleb Washington took the initiative to lead everyone in prayer and uplift guests before receiving a hot meal.  

St. Vincent de Paul staff and guests were excited to meet Southern Football players ahead of the Bayou Classic, where Southern won against Grambling State 36 – 14, and the student-athletes were equally excited for the opportunity to interact with them.

Friday, November 18

Southern University Baseball closed out our week of service at a Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway hosted by Councilman Cleve Dunn and Collegiate Baton Rouge. Players passed out over 200 turkeys to families, toured the Collegiate Baton Rouge campus, and engaged with students. They also had an opportunity to be interviewed by Metro 21, the East Baton Rouge government channel that broadcasts to 150,000 households.

Today was a perfect full-circle experience, being able to work hand in hand with high school students sharing knowledge while also reminiscing on our high school days. We got to tour the school which allowed us to see the direction in which the next generation of leaders is taking us. On top of that giving turkeys to the community and seeing the smiles on their faces made us appreciate the opportunity that we had as kids and being able to take advantage of that to put us in the position to be influential to others. 

Jerry Burkett II, Southern University baseball

The holiday season is a time when we are able to reflect on all that we are grateful for and this year our student-athletes haven’t stopped saying how grateful they are to be able to give back to their communities. We are looking forward to hosting more week-long service projects across our AFH University campuses in the future.

Community Partner Highlight

Miracle Moments at Cyprus Mounds

As we built new relationships with local nonprofits in Baton Rouge, one stood out as a student-athlete favorite – The Miracle League. For those unfamiliar, The Miracle League gives children with any type of disability the opportunity to play the game of baseball. 

Since 2016, Athletes for Hope student-athletes have looked forward to Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Cypress Mounds.

This is a great opportunity to give back to the culture around us and we enjoy every second of it.

Gavin Dugas, LSU Baseball

Our involvement has not only brought joy to the young Miracle League athletes but to LSU and Southern University student-athletes as well. Serving as buddies, protecting players during the game, and cheering them on has been a rewarding experience while contributing to a positive environment for all participants. Our 2019 & 2022 AFH Partner of the Year participant stated, “It’s been unbelievable. The Miracle League players love it when athletes come out to join them.”- Charlene Lauman, Miracle League- Volunteer Coordinator for the 2022 fall season.

Everyone should go watch or volunteer at the Miracle League! It’s truly a blast to be out there with those kids because all they want to do is have fun! That’s what the game is all about. Each and every single one of them puts a smile on my face. I’m already looking forward to my next game because they are so much fun!

McKenzie Odgen, Southern University Softball.

AFH Baton Rouge teams made weekly visits to their friends over at Cypress Mounds- never missing a game during the entirety of the fall 2022 season. It wasn’t long until their dedication and commitment to their community started getting noticed on a larger scale. Local news station WBRZ made a trip out to Cypress Mounds to watch our student-athletes from LSU in action.


Following LSU Baseball’s visit in October, they posted to their social media platforms “Thank you to the Miracle League at Cypress Mounds for having us and we can’t wait to see y’all at Alex Box this season!”


We are looking forward to returning for the spring season to support our buddies at The Miracle League. 

AFH Advocacy

Athletes & Addressing Food Insecurity

This winter, Athletes for Hope has been tackling the disparities of food insecurity across our AFH University campuses through service projects and advocacy. Our athletes believe that nobody should have to choose between paying a bill or nourishing their bodies.

Food insecurity affects people from every walk of life, including athletes and those in the community right around us – whether you see it or not. 

Food insecurity is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life. This can be a temporary situation for a family or can last a long time.

Who does it affect?

Hunger occurs for people from all walks of life – including athletes – but doesn’t affect everyone equally. Groups like children, seniors and black, indigenous, and other people of color face hunger at higher rates. Hunger also affects those living in poverty.

60% of collegiate athletes experience food insecurity in the United States.

How can athletes help?

There are many different ways athletes can use their platforms to combat food insecurity! Education is always at the start so be sure to familiarize yourself with the topic and learn how it affects the communities closest to you. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Volunteer at your local food pantry: Foodpantries.org
  • Educate & Advocate : Feedingamerica.org
  • Donate to a national or local organization
  • Share the infographics below on your social media as a way to raise awareness for food insecurity this winter.

Pauls Pujats, Community Hero Of The Week

Pauls is this week’s Community Hero!

Pauls Pujats is a Latvian Olympic Pole Vaulter who has focused his attention on the AFH Fit program, a program we created to tackle the issue of childhood obesity.

Pauls is passionate about encouraging kids to adopt healthy lifestyles, and consistently visits with schools via the AFH Fit program. Every month Pauls visits with his partner school to share his athletic experiences and promote active lifestyles with the help of the CHAMPS curriculum.

First, spreading and sharing joy, which leads to the second –  love and passion for what you do, and the third is sharing valuable information that can help others to live their best life.

Pauls Pujats on his favorite moment giving back to his community

Ann Gaffigan, Community Hero of the Week

Ann has been a member of AFH for almost 13 years, engaging with major initiatives every step of the way. When Ann relocated to Kansas City, we quickly helped connect her to Win for KC, a great non-profit dedicated to advancing women’s sports in the Kansas City area. Ann embraced the organization and the opportunity to give back and now sits on their board of directors! 

Aside from WIN for KC, Ann has played an integral role in educating and connecting with athletes nationwide on the importance of service through advocacy. 

We Are Thankful for Our Member Athletes

November has come to a close and Thanksgiving has passed and yet we are still reflecting on how thankful we are for all of our wonderful member athletes. This year we highlighted a few of those athletes on social media as a special thanks. These individuals went above and beyond in giving their time on several occasions this year and some even got their whole team involved! We truly appreciate everyone that gave back this year and are looking forward to continuing that positive momentum in 2016!