Dec. 16, 2013
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue track and field teams pitched in their time, talents and treasure over the weekend to provide provisions for families in need. The Boilermakers organized a Christmas meal and purchased, wrapped and gave presents to five families from the New Community School on Sunday evening. It was the second-annual event for the Boilermakers.
The Boilermaker track and field student-athletes chipped in more than $2,500 of their own money to go along with more than $1,000 from the staff at the New Community School. All of the money was used to buy Christmas presents for the families, which ranged from two to six individuals, including 11 children aged from 1 to 13-years old. The team purchased nearly 150 gifts for the families and spent more than an hour wrapping them on Sunday afternoon. Every individual received a coat and shoes as one of their presents.
“I have had it in my heart since I was a teenager that it is important to give back,” head track and field coach Lonnie Greene said. “This is a project that I started when I was at Arkansas and I brought it with me when I came to Purdue last year. I brought the idea up with the staff and they ran with it. (Throws coach) Keith McBride stepped up and said he’d take it, and he’s done a great job heading it for us. We as a staff gave, the kids gave, the teachers at the school gave, we all gave. We were able to bless four families last year and this year we got it up to five. It is something that we want to teach our young people, that it is important to give back whenever you can.”
The Boilermakers take part in several charitable events throughout the year including the Cancer Walk, reading to kids at schools, writing to pen pals and numerous other events in the community. The Christmas event is one of the most important, as its effects can be seen firsthand.
“To put a coat on a kid that didn’t have one, or give a kid something like a backpack that seems so simple, that is a real blessing,” added Greene. “The look on the kids’ faces when they are receiving the gifts and taking pictures with our student-athletes really blesses us as a staff and program. The concept to me is to teach people that charity begins at home and spreads through the community. You don’t have to build a building. You just have to spread love and anything else that you can because the effect that has on a child could be a lasting one, one that in turn causes them to remember it and then to give back in the future. I want our kids to learn and understand that it is more important to be a blessing than to be blessed.”
McBride, along with his wife Cheyenne, has helped lead the annual event in its first two years at Purdue. The New Community School, located in Lafayette, is led by Principal Misty Ndiritu. Ndiritu worked with several of the teachers on staff to raise money for the event which would help their own students.
“This is the second year we have worked with the track team and it provides us an opportunity to create a partnership with Purdue Athletics and serve families in need,” said Ndiritu. “The partnership allows us to help the families, especially during the holidays. This year we had a lot of families nominated based on need who have given so much to the school with volunteer work. This is great opportunity for us to give back to them, because even though they volunteer so much to the school, they themselves may not have a lot of funds to be able to purchase things for their kids. The least we can do is help them during the holiday time and to give them some of their needs and wants.”
About half of the students at the school struggle to bring a daily lunch, along with other financial burdens. That figure alone shows the needs of the students, especially since the school cannot provide lunches or transportation. The school uses those figures to identify specific families with financial needs and then goes through a selection process.
“It’s great because these families really take pride in what they can give to other people,” added Ndiritu. “They are so giving and selfless themselves, but we know at the end of the day they have their own needs. These families just give and give and give despite personally struggling. Our teachers did a great job of fundraising this year. When they know it has a direct impact on daily family lives, they enjoy the giving and do whatever they can.”
The Boilermakers plan to continue holding the event on a yearly basis.
The team is currently off for the winter break, but will return Jan. 11, 2014, to host the Gene Edmonds Cup inside Lambert Fieldhouse.