COLLEGE STATION -- A record number of Texas A&M student athletes representing Aggie Athletes Involved will be participating in the University’s 26th annual Big Event, the largest one-day collegiate community service project in the nation.
Approximately 80 Aggie student athletes, managers and trainers, as well as other support staff representing numerous sports, including football, volleyball, equestrian, and the men’s and women’s golf, swimming and diving and track and field teams, have volunteered their time at the Saturday event. The large response from the student athletes was overwhelming, creating a good problem to have.
“We were looking for one large project where all of the student athletes could work together and create a sense of camaraderie and fellowship and the feeling of working as a team outside of the competition venue,” said Mona Osborne, A&M athletic department’s coordinator for student-athlete services. “Big Event was very cooperative and worked diligently trying to make sure we had an event that could accommodate all of us. The problem that we ran into was that most of their largest projects are for 11-12 people.”
Instead of just one project, the group will provide services at two sites within the community. One group will assist the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) Urban Search and Rescue Division build a mock earthquake scene at Disaster City.
The other group will participate in a beautification project at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Although not a sanctioned Big Event project, the volunteers will help refurbish a sand volleyball court, spread topsoil and mulch, among other duties in the spirit of giving back to the community.
“Because of the time constraints we face as student athletes, we don’t have many opportunities to collectively volunteer and work with others,” said Aggie volleyball player Mary Batis, who along with swimmer Brittany (Lentz) Raiford was instrumental in gathering the large group of student-athlete volunteers. “The Big Event is a powerful and meaningful way for not just student athletes, but all of the student organizations to gather and give back to the community and show our appreciation. Working together like this gives a new dimension to the word “team”, and to be able to participate and help in something bigger than yourself is very rewarding and helps you understand what is important in life.”
The exercises that take place at Disaster City are about saving lives, and the mock earthquake scene will help Texas Task Force 1, the state’s elite urban search and rescue team, prepare for the next natural disaster. In the mock earthquake aftermath, the team must maneuver through Disaster City rescuing volunteer "victims", while also encountering obstacles such as leaking natural gas lines, electric transmission lines and overflowing sewer system scenarios, just like at an actual disaster.
One division in particular that will benefit from the exercise is the Texas A&M Care Team, which stands ready at many of A&M’s athletic events.
“The Care Team supports the athletes by providing emergency medical service at athletic events, and now the athletes have an opportunity to assist the Care Team and see more of what they do,” said Brian Smith, the urban search and rescue training coordinator for TEEX. “This exercise is like their Big 12 Championship event.”
According to the University, an anticipated 10,200 Aggies—which would be a record—are set to take on more than 1,100 clean-up and fix-up projects—also a record—throughout the Bryan-College Station area.
“Most people in the community see student-athletes only on the field” Osborne said. “They may not realize that we are very active in giving back to the community. The Big Event is a great way for so many students-athletes to come together at one time to help not only the University, but the community as well.”
For more information on the Big Event, go to http://bigevent.tamu.edu.
For more information on Disaster City, go to http://www.teex.com/teex.cfm?pageid=USARprog&area=USAR&templateid=1117