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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 News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Athletes for Hope and Southern University Team Up to Support Mental Health & Wellness

Update | August 29, 2022: You can find a recap of this event in BR Proud.

Baton Rouge, LA, August 16 – Athletes for Hope (AFH) is proud to support the Wellness Festival on the Bluff, presented by NAMI Louisiana, scheduled for Friday, August 19, 2022. The event will take place at the Southern University Event Center (8101 James J Prestage St, Baton Rouge, LA 70807) from 10am to 4pm in collaboration with Southern University Athletics, Student Government Association and the Department of Social Work.

As part of Southern University Athletics’ Fan Fest Weekend, the Wellness Festival will include presentations from mental health professionals and advocates. Highlights include a presentation from NAMI National CEO Daniel Gillison who will raise awareness about the mental health needs of college students and an AFH Whole Being Athlete panel moderated by Dr. Marlin Hollins, Southern University Assistant Athletic Director of Advancement, focusing on campus area mental health resources. Yoga, mindfulness moments and targeted vendors focusing on mental health community support will all round out this incredible day of learning.

“During a time where athlete mental health awareness and suicide prevention is needed more than ever, AFH sees a significant and important opportunity in Baton Rouge to support and strengthen the mental health and wellness resources surrounding Southern University,” said Suzanne Potts, LMSW, MPH, AFH University National Director and Mental Health Program Lead. “We are grateful for the campus community, Southern Athletic Department and NAMI Louisiana for their commitment to making this event a huge success and connecting Southern students with a day of reflection, resource sharing and fun.”

This event is funded in part by a grant from the Pennington Family Foundation which supports a larger initiative with Athletes for Hope University (AFH U), a program that educates and connects student-athletes from LSU and Southern University to service and volunteerism, as well as mental health and advocacy efforts via AFH’s Whole Being Athlete. AFH U launched in 2013 and now operates at 14 university campuses across the U.S., including 5 HBCUs while Whole Being Athlete launched in May of 2021.

For media inquiries, please contact: Kenya Warren-Hollins (kwarren@athletesforhope.org, 504-428-9737)

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About Athletes for Hope

Founded by Muhammad Ali, Andre Agassi, Mia Hamm and nine other elite athletes in 2006, Athletes for Hope (AFH) is a cause-neutral non-profit that educates, encourages, and empowers athletes to find their passions and use their time to positively engage with their communities. Over the past 15 years, AFH has educated more than 10,000 professional, Olympic, Paralympic and collegiate athletes through its Causeway workshop series, and its network includes thousands of athletes across nearly every sport. AFH’s core programs focus on underserved youth physical activity and leadership, mental health, and brightening the lives of children in hospitals. Through their dedication and passion for doing good, AFH Athletes have positively impacted the lives of millions around the world.

Athletes in Action

April 2022 AFH University Recap!

As we approach the end of the school year, class schedules may be slowing down but AFH University service projects are as strong as ever. Take a look at some of the highlights below to see what AFH U student-athletes have been up to over the past month!

In Baton Rouge, LSU Volleyball served at a booth at the Baton Rouge Zippity Zoo Festival community event while LSU Athletics as a whole hosted a field day for middle schoolers at LA Key Academy. Student-athletes from Beach Volleyball, Gymnastics, Indoor Volleyball, Cross Country ran different stations and interacted directly with the students.

college athletes post with two children outside

“Getting to engage with the middle schoolers was so rewarding. You could tell they felt seen and for me, they helped bring laughter and fun to the whole field day.”

Ellie Shank, LSU Beach Volleyball

As part of their student-athlete week at Southern University, AFH U partnered with NAMI Louisiana to host a mental health awareness event. NAMI Louisiana director, Lashonda Williams, J.D. lead a discussion around stress management and the importance of whole athlete wellness, Nicole Wesley of Pennington shared an opportunity for female athletes to participate in a psychological resilience study, followed by a yoga session facilitated by former student athlete, Maya Anderson.

In Charlottesville, UVA hosted its first “UNITY Walk” which was was organized by SAAC Vice President and BOSS (Black student-athletes Offering Service and Support) leader Milla Ciprian. Working with groundskeepers, she says that the goal of the walk was to “educate our peers on the historical and lingering effects of the impact of structural racism from the perspective of Charlottesville community members.” In turn, this walk helped connect student-athletes at UVA with the Charlottesville community, an important step in improving the relationship between the two.

As citizens who live and work in the city of Charlottesville, there is an opportunity to learn more about the untold history of Charlottesville and its inhabitants. Our intention is to connect and begin creating a relationship with the local community.

Milla Ciprian
a group of UVA students stand in a street

Moving up the east coast to Washington, D.C., Howard Women’s Basketball assisted and cheered for youth with disabilities during a basketball game with athletes from KEEN Greater D.C.

MSU Field Hockey and Football promoted the Be The Match None Marrow Registry around campus by getting students, friends, and family members to sign up for the live saving registry.

“Be The Match is a great event to help educate people on the importance of bone marrow donation saving lives. It’s an event that my team looks forward to hosting every year and we are excited to grow the registry every year.”

Cara Bonshak, MSU Field Hockey

Last but not least, we had a wonderful session, “Creating a Social Justice Mindset” with student-athletes in the AFH U Sports Philanthropy Certificate Program. Track and Field runner Marvellous Iheukwumere spoke with student-athletes about gender and racial equality, sexual assault and chronic disease advocacy.

Join us in congratulating AFH University student-athletes for once again going above and beyond in giving back to their communities!

Athletes in Action

March 2022 AFH University Recap!

Three things are always constant in March at AFH: the weather starts getting warmer, the sun shines a little brighter, and our AFH University student-athletes are constantly giving back!

This year, our March activations mainly focused on disability awareness and inclusion opportunities with kids from all over the country. Our AFH U Baton Rouge campuses:

  • Began weekly baseball games with Miracle League which will go through May
  • Hosted a field day with LA Key Academy elementary students
  • Helped with a house painting project with The Walls Project

AFH U Howard student-athletes also worked with K.E.E.N. Greater DC players at a basketball clinic.

It was just fun being able to play with kids who have nothing but pure joy for the game. It reminded me of how I felt about the game when I was younger, so they truly are an inspiration to remember to be grateful for every moment on the field.

Raquel Latta #14, Southern Softball

Take a look at some of the amazing highlights in the gallery below and join us in celebrating these incredible student-athletes for bringing smiles to so many!

AFH Welcomes 2020 Fall Interns

Athletes for Hope offers ways for college students and college student-athletes to make a difference while learning valuable skills through our internship program. Our interns help us carry out our day-to-day work and this semester, we have three new interns from Louisiana who are assisting us in a variety of ways. Meet Aubri James, TarynDeShay Antoine and Courtney Henderson.

Aubri James

Aubrion James is a 22 year-old first-year MBA student at Southern University and A&M College. Originally from Madison, AL, Aubri loves her family, staying active, and God. She will be starting her fifth season of eligibility as a pitcher and outfielder in spring 2021, due to the
cancellation of the spring 2020 season.

Taryn Antoine

Taryn Deshay Antoine was born on September 23 in Alexandria, Louisiana. Her parents are Travis and Robertha Antoine. She is an only child beginning her 4th year on the Lady Tigers Softball Team. She has served on SAAC for 3 consecutive years and has been the Community
Service Executive Officer for two of those. She plans to major in Kinesiology Pre-Occupational Therapy.

Courtney Henderson

“This fall I am entering into my 5th season on the soccer team at LSU. I am originally from Rogers, MN. I grew up in a wonderful community, so the emphasis that Athletes for Hope places on having a positive impact on the community is super important to me! I have worked alongside Athletes for Hope for the past four years while being a member of the LSU Student Athlete Advisory Committee. This year I have the privilege of serving as the SAAC Vice President. My major is General Business, and I am double minoring in Social Work and International Studies. I am really looking forward to this opportunity!”