Hundreds of children in Saskatoon are enjoying a warmer Christmas this year thanks to the efforts of a group of student-athletes at the University of Saskatchewan.
Huskies women’s volleyball player Emily Koshinsky launched a kids’ winter clothing drive after speaking with community leaders at a handful of schools where she has been working as a substitute educational assistant.
“This year due to COVID they didn’t receive as much grant money and they rely on different programs to give winter clothing to their schools and I said that’s probably something Huskie Athletics could help with,” Koshinsky recalled.
She presented her plan to the student-athlete-led Huskie Athletic Council, which was looking for new community outreach ideas after the pandemic forced it to suspend its Huskie Homeroom program, which sees student-athletes serve as mentors in local classrooms.
The HAC pledged its full support and the Huskies did the rest.
With HAC team representatives helping to get the word out, Koshinsky collected donations from all 15 Huskies teams. The Dogs came through in a big way, contributing nearly 450 items of clothing to the cause.
“These kids have next to nothing and a lot of them are immigrants or refugees so they come from other countries and they don’t know what to expect, so the generosity of Huskie Athletics, they were so supportive of this initiative,” Koshinsky said.
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“They were more than willing to give all their gear that is in perfect condition but they just grew out of and these kids are so happy to receive it.”
It’s the first time Huskie athletes from all sports have banded together for a charity clothing drive.
“Teams usually break out and do their own initiatives in the community so I think this was a really important way for us to give back during COVID in a safe way,” women’s basketball player and HAC president Libby Epoch said.
While the co-ordinated effort was borne out of unusual circumstances it could become an annual tradition.
“Hopefully it can be something we do every year because although it is a strange year the need is there every year for kids to have these essentials,” Epoch said.
The clothing drive also served as a reminder that although it’s been a tough year for university student-athletes with their conference seasons being cancelled, there are other members of the community struggling to meet even their most basic needs.
“It’s very easy to feel sorry for yourself and feel sorry that you don’t have a season, that we don’t get to play, we don’t get to practice even, we get shut down but there’s always people that are lesser off than you,” Koshinsky said.
“It’s nice to be a part of something bigger than yourself.”