Dec. 12, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue men’s and women’s track and field teams got into the holiday spirit over the last couple weeks as they joined together with the New Community Charter School in downtown Lafayette to help families in need. The Boilermakers donated their time, money, and effort to purchase and deliver Christmas presents for four different families.
Purdue throws coach Keith McBride headed the effort for the student-athletes. He and 20 members of the teams joined forces with NCS to deliver gifts to two families last Sunday. McBride and 20 more track and field student-athletes will bring presents to two more families later this week.
“It’s great for our kids to learn the joy of giving back to the community that has given us so much,” McBride said of his team. “It’s a very humbling experience to literally give back to people who are in a worse situation than we are. We are looking forward to making this an annual tradition and hope that we can make this grow to 10 families next year. You could really see the joy on the student-athletes’ faces while delivering the gifts to the families. It was an eye opening experience for them and one they will never forget.“
The families selected by the Boilermakers are from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The four families have more than a dozen children combined, ranging from infant to 13 years of age. One Boilermaker entertained the children by dressing and acting as Santa Claus. Freshman thrower Coy Blair threw on the red suit and hat as well as a full white haired wig and beard much to the excitement of the children. Blair handed out presents, talked to the kids, and posed for some pictures.
Scott Fields led the effort for the New Community Charter School. Fields is the executive director at the school. He worked with McBride as well as McBride’s wife, Cheyenne, who is a special education teacher at NCS. Cheyenne proposed the idea to the staff at the school and they were all in. The teachers helped chip in to pool with the money raised by the track and field teams to buy the gifts for the kids. Once the presents were purchased, the student-athletes wrapped and delivered them.
Fields and his staff also worked with McBride in the family selection process. Fields identified a number of families in difficult financial situations and the two individuals determined four families, including one that is homeless, they felt were most in need during the Christmas season.
“We had a couple of families that have five and six kids,” Fields said. “We felt that based on financial situations, those families would benefit most from the gifts. We brought four teachers and myself from NCS with the track team to help deliver the presents and it was very nice. I thought one of the great things was that the team had one individual dress up as Santa and the kids were very excited. The two biggest words to describe the event are excited and grateful. The kids were excited and the parents were very grateful. The fathers and mothers kept telling us how much they appreciated it because this makes their holiday season much easier.”
McBride and Fields felt the event was so successful that they plan to do it again next year. The two feel that the more families they can help, the better for everyone and would like to see the project grow to 10 in 2013.
“It would be wonderful to continue this next year,” said Fields. “We try to encourage as much collaboration with Purdue as we can. We often use the science and education departments on campus so to expand to the track team and athletics is great. We have a lot of Purdue families at our school and we would love to see the program grow. It was very generous of the team. I want to express my thanks to them. I was very grateful myself that the team would do that for our needy families. They were just wonderful.”
Head coach Lonnie Greene and his staff have emphasized to the team the importance of giving back to the community and those less fortunate. The track and field student-athletes have participated in several events this fall in the greater-Lafayette area to help in any way they can.
“This project was a great idea and we appreciate that Coach Greene brought it to our attention,” said McBride. “The team embraced it really well and I am proud of them for it. Our team took time away from their lives and studying for finals to help families in need and they enjoyed every minute. I look forward to doing this again next year and hopefully making it an annual event.”