By Khandice WintersArkansas Media Relations
Did anybody notice that the day after Halloween the gate to Holiday spirit was opened? The Holidays are one of the best times of the year. Not only is it a time for friends and family to come together but it is also a time for our community to come together and help others. Programs like Angel Tree and Toys for Tots have helped many families in Northwest Arkansas. The newest program to our area is from none other than the Razorbacks. The second annual Shop With a Razorback was introduced last year by the Arkansas Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and was very successful. This program allows nine children from each of the local elementary schools to spend one hour shopping with a Razorback athlete in Toys “R” Us.
SAAC is comprised of student-athletes from each team at Arkansas. The student-athletes are picked by their coaches and are selected based on excellence is attitude, behavior, academics and on the playing field. With this position, it is up to the SAAC member to raise money from their team. A simple dollar from each teammate is normally what is asked, but they are encouraged to donate more. They also ask coaches and other team staff for their donations.
“We don’t go out and ask businesses, that doesn’t feel like [we] did it,” Roger Hunter, student life coordinator, said. “It’s up to each team to come up with the donations.”
This year it is expected that $400 will by raised between the 19 teams.
A counselor from each school decides which child will participate in the shopping with a Razorback program. The kids picked are not chosen based on income, but more on who will truly benefit from this experience. It is also easier if the child is an only child.
“It’s not fair if we pick a kid with, say, two or three siblings because we can’t take them all,” Hunter said. “With the requirements being so limited, it is hard to find that perfect child, so the SAAC is a little lenient about who they choose. Last year, they accepted 11 children because two counselors just had a hard time picking, so we picked two sets of siblings.”
In past years it was just the baseball team that raised money and took one family from the Angel Tree. SAAC members met on Nov. 17 to discuss this holiday season’s plans. The first year Shop With a Razorback took place on dead day, the day before finals start. This year’s date has not been set. When that day does comes and nine lucky kids are picked, Toys “R” Us will shut down for one hour as the children (along with a parent) shop with their favorite Razorback.
“It’s a wonderful program,” Hunter said. “You get the kids smiling and the parents are so thankful. Its also good because the student-athlete gets TV time outside of their sport, fans can see another side to them.”