Some Applause, Please, for Our Jayhawk Role Models

March 25, 2009

Dear Jayhawk Fans:

A few weeks ago, you may have read about a seriously ill 10-year-old Jayhawk fan who visited with his favorite men’s basketball team in Allen Field House. You may also have recently seen our women’s basketball team taking the court against Iowa State – in pink jerseys, not crimson and blue – to honor those who have lost the battle against cancer and those who continue the fight.

I know that in both instances you felt a special pride in all that is KU. I know I did.

I want to confirm what many of you perhaps already know: Our student-athletes are committed to supporting and providing service on a regular basis to a wide range of community needs. “Giving back” is common practice among our Jayhawks and, in fact, Kansas Athletics actively encourages each of our student-athletes to commit considerable time and effort toward becoming a positive force in the life of their community. In fact, in each of the past three years, our student-athletes have broken the department record for most community service hours completed in an academic year.

Our community outreach program is led by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), a hard-working team comprised of representatives from every KU sports team. They review community service requests – and there are many in any given year – set priorities and seek out appropriate support from members of our sports teams.

Let me provide you with an overview – and consider it a very brief report – of our Jayhawks’ ongoing commitment to community service.

  • Earlier this month, 70 student-athletes traveled to 11 area elementary schools as volunteer readers for the Read Across America program, a nationwide event to promote literacy and celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday. More than 2,100 Lawrence students listened to our student-athletes read a Dr. Seuss book, and then were given the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about life as a Jayhawk student-athlete.
  • The Read Across America event also coincided with the Jayhawks READ campaign, which we launched in 2008. Kansas Athletics representatives, including coaches, appear on READ posters, which are then distributed to elementary schools throughout the state. Student-athletes then make visits – more than 100 this academic year – to read to the students and stress the importance of reading.
  • In December, more than 150 Special Olympians joined 120 Jayhawk student-athletes at Powerplay, a family fun entertainment center in Shawnee, KS. Also, in February, more than 60 Special Olympians joined 60 Jayhawk student-athletes to cheer on the Kansas women’s basketball team during its “Pink Zone” game against Iowa State. The special partnership between the Jayhawk SAAC and Special Olympics Kansas includes up to 10 similar events a year. We are incredibly proud of this relationship.
  • Hundreds of Kansas elementary and junior high students visit KU athletics facilities as part of the Visit the Jayhawks tours. The tours are always fun, but the objective is to allow our student-athletes an opportunity to share a serious message with the students about the importance of hard work in school and achieving goals.
  • The Fun & Fitness with the Jayhawks program supports the Lawrence school district’s wellness initiative by providing our student-athletes as role models to motivate young elementary students to exercise and eat well. Jayhawks make up to 20 visits to local schools during the academic year.
  • KU student-athletes also participate in the annual Hawks, Cops and Kids co-sponsored by Kansas Athletics, Big Brothers Big Sisters and local law enforcement agencies. The event provides about 120 youth in grades 3-8 with personal sports instruction as well as information on health, nutrition and how to deal with their own personal safety.

And that is just a snapshot of what we have come to expect from our Jayhawks. During the last holiday season, Jayhawk SAAC raised more than $1,000 in donations from teammates to purchase gifts for 27 children through the Haskell Indian Nations University “Adopt a Haskell Rascal” project. In the past they also led the charge in organizing “Devin’s Run,” a fund-raiser that benefits Devin McAnderson, the seriously ill brother of former football student-athlete Brandon McAnderson.

The list could go on and on with simple acts that make a difference in our community.

I know you join me in saluting our exceptional Jayhawk student-athletes. We offer them plenty of cheers during sports events, but the community service they perform away from competition deserves a special round of applause.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

Lew Perkins
Director of Athletics