ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – Knights Without Borders Orlando is a week-long event in which UCF's student-athletes, coaches and staff are volunteering at various charities and organization across central Florida.
From July 10 - 15, a total of 59 representatives from UCF Athletics volunteered 450 hours. Thirty-eight student-athletes representing seven sports were among those who spent time at the Orlando Rescue Mission, Boys & Girls Club, Dreamplex and Habitat for Humanity.
The following is a blog documenting their experiences throughout the week.
Saturday, July 15 - Habitat For Humanity
Masseny Kaba, Women's Basketball
"Today at Habitat for Humanity, my colleagues and I contributed into helping fabricate homes for those in need. This comprised of painting, cutting sheets, making new windows, and some more. I, for the most part, centered around painting wardrobe entryways, turning them from dark to white. It was extremely tedious, yet I knew it was for an awesome reason. We needed to paint them again and again all together for the paint shading to sit well and really look white.
I truly like the way that we went out today to Habitat for Humanity since it is helping the individuals who are in need. Many individuals are not as blessed as others and for us as student-athletes, participating in Habitat was just one of the things that we could do. It was an incredible day, despite the fact that the hot sun was softening us like popsicles. Good thing they gave us water to stay hydrated!"
Friday, July 14 - Habitat For Humanity
Dr. Daniel J. White, UCF Vice President and Director of Athletics
"I put tremendous value on the opportunity to work alongside our student-athletes and give back to the city of Orlando. KWOB gives UCF student-athletes and staff the opportunity to use their talents in bettering their community while receiving an empowering experience.
"We rise by lifting others" is true in every aspect of life. We can all become better teammates/coworkers/friends/family members by better implementing that motto in our daily lives."
Gabby Durant, Track and Field
"Today we worked on a lot of touch up jobs. We started the day laying mulch around the plants. It sounds easy, but it was not at first. Before putting the mulch down, you must make two straight lines on both sides of the flower bed to have a path for the mulch, and that was one of the most frustrating things I've done in a while. After that we cleaned up the outside driveways and headed inside. We went over little nicks in the wall and cleaned up paint off the floor. We did not do any building but we did the little things that go into making the homes look beautiful.
Working with Habitat for Humanity is always fun. Every time I work with them, I learn something new. Everyone that is working and involved are always so nice and patient with us which makes working with them more meaningful. Whenever I get a chance I love to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
Side note: Danny White thinks he has mulcher of the year in the bag, but I think I can give him a run for his money."
Thursday, July 13 - Habitat For Humanity
Nicci Hopps, Academic Advisor
"'A house is made of walls and beams but a home is made with loves and dreams.'
Today our team of UCF staff and student-athletes was able to help build a home. Day four of the Knights Without Borders: Orlando was spent partnering with Habitat For Humanity. Upon arriving in the morning, we checked in, went through introductions and got to work. The particular house we were working on was in the drywall phase. We split into teams and starting working on different rooms. With the help of my teammate, Lizzy, we were able to finish the drywall in the bathroom. Putting up drywall is a very rewarding experience because at the end of it you have literally put up the walls of the house.
As usual, it was a very hot day, so breaks were a must. After working through the morning, we stopped to rest and eat lunch. This was one of my favorite parts of the day for many reasons but mainly because of the conversations with our student-athletes. It is a pleasure to see them in this environment, serving the local community. For the second half of the day, a group of us worked on planting bushes in the yard of a house next door. It was amazing being able to put the finishing touches on a house that will soon be filled with a family.
Altogether, it was a great day out in the community. We were able to learn more about Habitat For Humanity and even meet some homeowners. Our student-athletes and staff make it a priority to give back to the local community. I am thankful to have this opportunity and proud to be a part of UCF Athletics."
Wednesday, July 12 - Habitat For Humanity
Adrienne Li, Women's Soccer
"Today we arrived at the current building site of Habitat for Humanity. We started off the day with some basic instructions and then we were quickly put to work on the various houses under construction. My team consisted of myself, two of my teammates Jess and Nemo, as well as Nerissa from volleyball and one of the regular volunteers, Sarah.
We began by assembling closet doors for one of the nearly finished houses. There were four doors to be worked on and it surely took all our hands to get this accomplished. We were slow to get started as it took a while to figure out the various steps and use the different materials, but with the help of the site manager and a little bit of patience, we got the grasp of it and things started to move a lot quicker.
Our next task was to drill shutters along the sides of the windows outside the house. I learned that the new homeowners had the option to choose some aspects of the layout of their homes and shutters was one of their choices. Once again, we had some difficulties starting the new task but we got the hang of it quickly enough and managed to install all the shutters needed for the house!
After a long hot day working on site there were many new things learned and friendly new faces met. One of the things I found interesting was that some of the people helping to build and clean up the area were working on site to fulfill an hourly requirement which will then allow them to have their own home built. I thought that was fascinating because now these future homeowners can see firsthand how much planning and work goes into the construction of these new homes and communities. This experience gave me a new appreciation for those who work daily to build houses with the Habitat for Humanity organization because it is hard manual work and there are many small details to pay attention to. There are many people who cannot afford the high cost of living in big cities and I think this organization and their volunteers do a great job to help the community out and put a roof over many people's heads."
Tuesday, July 11 - Dreamplex
Nyala Shuler, Women's Basketball
"It's always nice to give back, especially when it's something that we love to do and we do every day, like playing basketball.
We're doing simple things for us like dribbling and passing, but we can take for granted that not everyone can do this. We're working with these kids who can't really do that on an every day basis. There's some kids here in wheelchairs, so it's nice to see them getting out and playing the sport that we do and love. We're trying to help them get better."
Aubrey Dawkins, Men's Basketball
"It's really special for us as a team because we don't always get to do a whole lot outside of basketball. It's a nice reminder and puts things in perspective about what life's really about and appreciating the little things and giving back to those who are fans or love the game of basketball. It's always nice to give back.
Everybody's life is different. Not everyone is blessed with an able body or able mind to do what we do. It's nice to help out and give back to those who love the game as well. They love sports and activity, but just aren't able to do it because of circumstances out of their control. It's really puts it into perspective as to why we're here and what we're doing it for. It's really amazing."
Tuesday, July 11 - Boys & Girls Club
Shiree Hinds, Track and Field
"My trip to the Boys and Girls Club was an amazing experience! By working with Knights without Borders, I had the chance to meet with young minorities, to speak with them, and play games. We had different games to keep the children active and excited. For example, we played Duck Walk, Football Drills, and Finish The Race. Finish The Race is the game that I hosted. This game consisted of the kids racing to beat their former time. The kids will start at a cone, and when told, they would run 50 meters to the finish line as I timed them. If they beat their first time during their second run, they would get two points. If they beat both their first and second times during their last run, they would get an additional two points. Although it was really hot, it was fun to watch the kids compete and be active.
Before today, I didn't know much about what the Boys and Girls Club did. By being a part of Knights Without Borders, I saw how I would have enjoyed this even when I was younger. The Boys and Girls Club is a great program for kids because they get to be more social, active, and enjoy themselves out of the school setting. Also, by the allowing volunteers like myself; a student-athlete, kids can be motivated to see how they can be successful and go to college. There was an activity that I did with the kids where we got to sit down and paint rocks. During this time I got to really talk to them and see how happy they were from me being there. This is why it is important to have the right staff at the Boys and Girls Club. The kids are sponges to what we talk about, and luckily the staff there is amazing. All in all, I am so happy I got to have this experience and connect with the kids. It is so important for the children in our community to get this type of support."
Taryn Burke, Cheerleading
"This morning a group of UCF student-athletes and faculty in the athletics department took a trip to the East Altamonte Boys and Girls Club. It is a location that the athletics department volunteers at throughout the year, so the kids were excited to see familiar faces and also some new faces. We had a day full of activities, arts and crafts planned that the kids were looking forward to.
The first part of the morning consisted of a variety of events such as soccer, hangman basketball, math and duck walk races. They enjoyed spending some of their energy outside playing sports and then having the opportunity to cool off inside by doing more knowledge-based activities. There was a UCF staffer at each event, and rotating the kids in groups of 4-7 helped to give a more one-on-one connection. After about two hours of rotating, we had lunch. Once lunch was over, we set up an arts and crafts activity where we painted "love rocks." Each kid got to decorate one or two rocks. They were all extremely unique and something that they will be able to keep for a long time.
Being a part of of this event today was a great experience. It is always fun when you get together with people from different sports to give back to the community. We all enjoyed spending time with the kids today, helping them reach their potential. The Boys and Girls Club is a great organization, and we are all very grateful that they welcomed us with open arms."
Monday, July 10 - Orlando Union Rescue Mission
Samantha Gray, Cheerleading
"A group of UCF student-athletes spent the morning at the Orlando Union Rescue Mission. We started the morning off making sandwiches, and getting food and drinks ready to be served for lunch. Mothers, fathers and children came and got lunch and sat in the cafeteria to enjoy their meals. After lunch was over, we went to the gymnasium to play with the kids and participate in different activities. They did a number of different things like football, soccer, basketball and racing each other up and down the gym. Knightro also joined us, and it was obvious it was their favorite part of the entire day. All of their faces lit up when he walked in.
The residents of the Orlando Union Rescue Mission consists of either families and their children, single parents and their children or single ladies. The people living at this facility are getting their lives back in order and this provides them with the resources to get back on their feet. Rather than allowing just anyone to become a resident, there is criteria that must be met. The residents must be completely alcohol and drug free, and the adults must have a full time job. If someone is having a difficult time finding a job, the facility has positions that can be filled. The Union also helps them when they are leaving the program, finding permanent housing and teaching them how to budget and save money so they don't find themselves in the same position.
It was eye-opening to see how other people live and get a different perspective on things. So often we forget how fortunate we are to have a place to sleep every night and enjoy a hot meal every day. I was humbled serving the residents and witnessing how thankful they were to have a meal provided to them. There can be a number of different reasons why the residents have ended up in the position they're in; however, it is clear they want to better their lives for themselves and their families. All of the kids were so sweet and loved getting to spend the time with us playing different sports in the gym. They may not have everything they want, but it is clear they are grateful for everything they do have."
Lauren Nemeroff, Women's Soccer
"Today various student-athletes from women's soccer, track and field, the spirit squad and members of the UCF administration came together through the Knights Without Borders program to help out at an amazing organization called the Orlando Union Rescue Mission. We were unfamiliar with this specific organization and curious to find out what our tasks were going to be for the day. We were welcomed by a very gracious staff who explained to us what their mission consisted of and how we were going to be contributing to their efforts. The Orlando Union Rescue Mission is an organization that provides food, clothing and shelter to those with urgent need. From there, a program is designed to guide these men, women and families to their own financial and physical independence.
After learning more about the cause, we were excited to get started. Our team from Knights Without Borders provided lunch for all of the residents for the day. For about an hour we were set up at different stations making sandwiches, organizing snacks and preparing the cafeteria for lunch. Lunch began promptly at 11:30 where we served and interacted with the people and families of the mission. The residents that we served encompassed many different people, ranging from families with single mothers and fathers to young and middle aged adults without children. Our KWOB staff were often distracted and amused by the cheerful kids that were goofing around and waving to us from across the cafeteria. The atmosphere of the whole building felt welcoming and friendly. Often times, kids around the age of 13 and 14 would come up to us individually and ask us about high school, college and playing sports. Of course we were thrilled to respond and were all able to share a little bit of our stories and offer advice from our own experiences.
Lunch ended at 12:30 and it was time to begin our time with all of the kids - about 30 to 40 children total, ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade. We set up different games and skills challenges consisting of basketball shooting, soccer dribbling, a spelling bee, and other various stations that they would rotate to. Each volunteer from UCF was set up around the gym to help keep the kids on track and interact with them more personally. Seeing the smile on their faces when we would do an activity, or how they would cling on to you if they thought you were leaving, was one of the most rewarding feelings of the day. What separated this volunteer opportunity from others was that we were able to directly interact with who we were helping and see, first hand, the differences we were making. Being a part of this program today was extremely humbling and a great experience. The Orlando Union Rescue Mission is an amazing organization that my teammates and I were very grateful to be a part of."