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Athletes off the Field: Friendly competition between Oswego student-athletes helps fight hunger in Pulaski community

Athletes off the Field: Friendly competition between Oswego student-athletes helps fight hunger in Pulaski community

OSWEGO, N.Y. - The Pulaski Community Cupboard has a lot more food on its shelves thanks to the efforts of student-athletes from 17 Oswego athletic teams.

Last Sunday, student-athletes had a rare opportunity to do something they don't get to do in any season - compete against other teams in their own school - in a field day known as Lakerlympics. "This event was started last season as a way to get all of the student-athletes together to have some fun and get to know each other," Victoria Rankin, President of Oswego's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) said. "As athletes, we are competitive so it was quite natural to choose a field day for some friendly competition."

The Oswego SAAC helped coordinate the field day, which consisted of events like tug-of-war, a three-legged race, water balloon toss, and dodgeball. Oswego SAAC Vice President Natalie Horton explained that besides fueling athletes' competitive spirits, Lakerlympics intends to bring those athletes together. "We thought it would also be a good way for the incoming freshmen to bond with the older athletes on their respective teams," Horton said.

But unlike last year's Lakerlympics, this year's take on the field day had a twist - using the competition between student-athletes as a means to help make a difference for Oswego County. "We initiated an entry fee to Lakerlympics of at least one food item per athlete," Rankin explained.

The donations were organized through the United Way of Greater Oswego County. Those donations, in turn, were given to the Pulaski Community Cupboard. As it turns out, the 300-plus participating student-athletes ended up making quite a difference, collecting a total of 325 pounds of food to be donated. "It was a great feeling being able to bring that many student-athletes together to help give back to Oswego County," Horton shared. "It meant a lot to the people who were receiving the non-perishable food items."

Keith Stoddard is the Board President for the Pulaski Community Cupboard. He said its purpose is to provide emergency food for individuals and families in need of assistance. "Individuals can visit our facility once a month and receive the equivalent of nine meals for each member of their family unit," he explained. "During 2017 we served on average 75 family units which represented approximately 200 individuals each month. We served over 30,000 pounds of food during the year."

Stoddard said the need to provide food for families and individuals around Pulaski has been growing. "Oswego County is a very poor county, and Pulaski is no different, relying on the fishing tourists for a bulk of the income during the year," Stoddared shared. "During the last few years we have found our numbers have increased on a regular basis, with the most outstanding statistic being the steady growth in the size of the family unit. It is not uncommon for our family unit to be multi-generational and number in the five to nine person range."

With 325 additional pounds of food now in stock at the Pulaski Community Cupboard thanks to the efforts of Oswego student-athletes, that need is being better addressed. "I would describe a donation of 300 items, as the equivalent of serving twenty-five individuals or one quarter of our monthly average. That is a big difference," Stoddard said.  "I am so very proud of the students donating food to help people they have never met. Although they attend Oswego and we are in Pulaski, it shows a generous community spirit. Because it has been my personal goal to assist the hungry in Pulaski, I am extremely thankful to every person that makes the effort to end hunger, even if for only a moment."

Rankin said showing that community spirit is something student-athletes at Oswego are proud to do. "It is very important to me, and many other student-athletes, to use our strength in numbers to give back to the community," she said. "This event is more than just fun and games, although both are also important. It is bringing out communities together and supporting those who support us in our athletics."

Meaning no matter who was left standing after a game of dodgeball, or who ended up crossing the finish line first in a three-legged race, at the end of the day, making a difference for a community in need means everyone was a winner.

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