On Tuesday evening, dozens of student athletes from various teams united to wrap Christmas presents for families in need through the Adopt-A-Family organization.
Students unraveled, folded and taped holiday-themed wrapping paper around a football and basketball, which would soon be torn open by a local 10-year-old boy while his siblings would cherish their new winter jackets, toys and Barbie dolls, all picked out by Lehigh’s student athletes.
Head of Lehigh’s athletic community and public relations department Roseann Corsi said Lehigh has been involved with Adopt-A-Family for 17 years.
“It all started when our softball coach Fran Troyan was at the local Wawa and overheard the cashier and a patron talking about how she couldn’t afford Christmas presents for her family,” Corsi said. “So when he came into work, he stopped by and told me this story, and from then on we have been helping many families make their Christmas a very special one.”
Corsi also said how she went to an organization on the South Side of Bethlehem when Lehigh first became interested in Adopt-A-Family, and they helped create a list of families in need.
“We wanted to make a difference,” she said.
With each Lehigh sports team participating in the event, the athletic community is making the difference that Corsi speaks of.
“This is easily the biggest event that the athletics community does at Lehigh,” said Alex Beatson, a Lehigh field hockey senior and student coordinator for the event. “It is so special to us because sometimes around the holiday season it’s so easy for us to get sucked up into the materialistic aspect of the holidays. Adopt-A-Family really provides us with an opportunity to give back to Bethlehem.”
Beatson said preparing for Adopt-A-Family takes weeks. The student athlete event coordinators first contact the local Broughal Middle School to get a list of the families that need help this winter financially. Student athlete council members are responsible for getting their teams to fundraise and donate for the event.
Once the teams have collected enough money, Lehigh athletes have a shopping day at the local Marshall’s. Each team shops for the family they are responsible for. The families provide the student athletes with a list of items they need for the winter, such as coats, sweaters, shoes, toys for children and more.
Once the shopping is complete, students gather in Taylor Gym to wrap the presents they had previously bought. Beatson said the actual event is usually three to four days after “wrapping day,” where student athletes actually hand the presents to the families in person.
“Unlike other events, you are able to interact with the people you are helping,” said Taylor Mygatt, a Lehigh field hockey senior. “Seeing the kids smile when you hand them their presents makes it more rewarding and puts you in the right spirit for the holiday season.”
Corsi said that the time when all the athletes meet their families for the first time to give them their gifts is the best feeling in the world.
“It’s a very emotional night for all of us,” she said. “All our athletes and myself leave that night after the reception feeling like we just made their Christmas. The children are just thrilled. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Corsi also said how on the night of the event the children open a gift or two and the rest are saved for Christmas Day.
“During the event at Broughal Middle School, the children smile from ear to ear all night long,” she said. “The parents are so appreciative of all the gifts.”
Adopt-A-Family has grown throughout the Lehigh community. Corsi said how over the last eight years a number of the fraternities and sororities at Lehigh have gotten involved, along with other departments from the university. She said that overall, they’ve adopted more than 50 families in the Bethlehem community.
Adopt-A-Family is just one of the many ways that student athletes help the local community. Many athletes are also involved in other community service projects like “Reading Rocks,” where Lehigh teams go to Donegan Elementary School on a designated Wednesday to help children read.
“It’s an amazing program in which we partner with St. Luke’s Hospital,” Corsi said. “The children look up to our student athletes as role models and they enjoy reading books together. This program helps the children tremendously.”
Other community projects by student athletes include helping children with their homework at other local elementary and middle schools.
“Our athletes really want to make a difference in our community,” Corsi said. “Our student athletes are very committed.”