Dec. 1—SUPERIOR — A combined effort to spread goodwill to the community kicks off Friday, Dec. 2 at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
Student athletes and athletic staff will spend a week supporting area nonprofits dedicated to helping those in need. It will be the department's seventh annual Yellowjacket Week of Giving.
"The idea behind starting the event came about because we had a number of teams out in the community doing a number of different things in the weeks leading up to the holidays," said Jon Garver, director of athletic communications for UWS. "We thought we could get more students and staff involved and have a larger impact across multiple groups if we combined our efforts as a department."
The chances of a Yellowjacket sighting in Superior from Dec. 2-11 is high. All 19 of the varsity sports teams will be participating in the annual giving campaign
Garver traced the roots of the week to a musical food drive. For more than 10 years, UWS athletes have been collecting food for the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry in exchange for some holiday tunes. They call it Caroling for Cans.
"The students really enjoy this one," Garver said.
This year, Caroling for Cans will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8.
"We try to fan the teams out as much as possible, so we will have teams out in Billings Park, in the East End and in close proximity to campus. Prior to the event this year, we'll have students go to those areas and place door hangers on houses so people know we'll be coming," Garver said. "Citizens are more than welcome to leave a bag out, but if they don't, they can expect students to knock on the door and sing for them."
When the department streamlined efforts into a concentrated week of giving seven years ago, they looked to see where their numbers could do the most good.
"Bell ringing for The Salvation Army was easy because they are always looking for volunteers, and we're able to provide them with volume to cover an entire day at one of their locations," Garver said.
UWS athletes will be ringing bells from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6 at the Harbor View Super One Foods, 2202 E. Second St.
New, unwrapped toys will be collected for the Superior Fire Department's Toys for Tots program at every UWS home game during the week. That includes men's hockey against Eau Claire at 7:05 p.m. Friday and women's hockey games against St. Scholastica at 7 p.m. Tuesday and against St. Olaf at 3 p.m. Dec. 10, all at Wessman Arena. Toys can also be dropped off at the athletic offices in the Marcovich Wellness Center during the Week of Giving.
Students will wrap gifts they have collected for student parents and their families through the UWS Giving Tree program Monday, Dec. 5; write appreciation cards for faculty and staff Wednesday, Dec. 7; and support Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank Friday, Dec. 9 by staffing the nonprofit's Have a Heart phone bank and volunteering to help with produce distribution.
"All of us are fortunate to be part of a university that is embraced by the community, and this is one of the ways where we can turn the focus the other way and give back to the community that does so much for us," Garver said.
It's also a way to see firsthand "that the things we do have an impact and make the lives of others better."
Athletes aren't the only ones giving back.
UWS student Nikki Ojibway has organized a winter gear collection for CHUM. The effort is being led by the UWS Social Work Student Association.
"We chose homelessness as one of the major social welfare issues in our area, and we wanted to think of a way we can give back during this time of year," Ojibway said.
In addition to collecting warm items for CHUM clients, a number of the social work students plan to volunteer at warming centers in Duluth once a week.
"We really want to focus on things that we can control and ways that we can thoughtfully contribute," Ojibway said.
Items can be dropped off through Dec. 16 in the social work lounge on the third floor of Swenson Hall on the UWS campus, room 3116. The most needed items are cotton or thermal socks, gently-used adult sized boots, hand warmers and adult size winter gloves.
Although the group has no set goal for their project, they've already collected three big bags of winter gear.
"We are just hoping to collect as much as we possibly can in the given amount of time," Ojibway said.