They show no mercy on the playing field. But off the court many Cal State Fullerton athletes are proving that they have hearts of gold through their participation in the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.
The organization, mandated by the NCAA, acts as a student council for CSUF athletes, plans philanthropic events and provides team-to-team support.
Adviser Mike Miles says the group grows larger each year.
This year, athletes from the committee visited the Crittenton Services Valley View campus on Thursday for their annual holiday party to bring Christmas gifts and decorate cookies with the youths who live there.
Miles said the annual holiday party is a highlight in the program.
“These athletes are like rock stars to these kids,” Miles said. “Some of the kids even ask for autographs. It’s a neat experience for both sides.”
Each CSUF men’s and women’s sports team is assigned individual cottages at the campus, and the staff at the facility help the athletes by letting them know what the young men and women need.
“We get Christmas lists from the home, and the gifts are donated by the athletes who participate,” co-president Brooke Weekley said.
Many of the young people living in the cottages at the Valley View campus are on probation or lived in unsafe homes before coming to live at the Crittenton Home.
Some are young mothers who range in age from 14 to 18 years old, like 16-year-old Maria, who lives in the Willow Cottage with several other mothers and their young children.
When asked what she will name her son, Maria replied with an ironic smile, “Tomorrow.”
Maria’s housemates laughed as they explained to the athletes that Maria was due the following day with her first child.
The cross-country team spent the evening giving gifts of baby bibs, books and cosmetics and munching on cookies with the residents of Willow Cottage.
Staff members said that the girls had been looking forward to the visit from the teams, which was apparent by the balloons and streamers decorating the cottage’s living room and the sign hanging over the cottage’s fireplace, which said, “Welcome Titan Athletes!”
All of the girls who live at the Crittenton Home go to schools in the area, and some, like Willow Cottage resident Kina, also participate in Regional Occupation Programs that enable them to get a head start on life outside of the facility.
“Right now I’m studying to be a medical assistant,” Kina said. “Someday I want to be a surgeon.”
Kina received a daily planner notebook from the athletes, which she said would come in handy when she is organizing her busy schedule.
Johnathan Golden, a junior on the track and field team, said this was his first year taking part in the annual event, but he almost didn’t participate.
“At first I didn’t want to do this,” Golden said. “But then I thought about how underprivileged some of these kids are, and how fortunate I’ve been. It really puts things into perspective for me.”
Golden and his teammates listened to hip-hop music and joked with the young women who live in the Pine Cottage while some of the athletes frosted smiley faces onto cookies with the help of toddlers and their mothers.
Many of the women athletes played with the infants of Pine Cottage, allowing the young mothers to feel like regular teenagers again, if only for a couple of hours.
The young women from the Juniper Cottage, who range in age from 12 to 17 years old, played Disney Charades with some of the athletes from the CSUF baseball, softball, wrestling and track and field teams.
“I enjoy being here because it seems like they enjoy us being here,” said Lamar Jackson, a sophomore on the track and field team.
Bianca, a 17-year-old girl who has lived at the Valley View campus for seven months, persuaded Jackson to play charades with the girls, and said she appreciated the visit.
“I think it’s sweet,” Bianca said. “They’ve taken the time out of their lives to be here with us.”
In the recreation room, the women’s soccer team played pool and foosball with girls from other cottages while a few of their fellow athletes cuddled the infants of some of the girls who weren’t able to take part in the festivities.
The atmosphere was mellow until a young resident said she didn’t think girls were supposed to play sports.
“What?” the female athletes cried out.
Christine Kuark, committee co-president and member of the CSUF fencing team said she was thrilled at this year’s turnout.
Kuark also said the annual holiday party is just one of the many philanthropic activities sponsored by the organization.
In the spring, the group also hopes to host another event with underprivileged children.
Kuark invites all who are interested in the philanthropic efforts of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee to attend the group’s meetings, which are held every first and third Wednesday of each month in room 215 of Langsdorf Hall.
Students can learn more by clicking on the “Athlete Services” tab at the organization’s Web site: www.fullertontitans.com.