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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Jumbo Giving Tree highlights Tufts Athletics’ civic outreach initiatives

Student-athletes are pictured inside the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center on Feb. 12.

A large part of being a student at Tufts is making the effort to engage with the surrounding community. The Tufts student-athlete mission statement embodies these values and the athletics department instills them through community outreach. The statement reads: “Jumbo athletes strive for excellence on and off the field. They experience the joy and personal growth inherent in high-level competition while cultivating lifelong connections with teammates, the Tufts community and the world around us.” 

This season, Tufts Athletics has embarked on many initiatives to reach out to the surrounding community to provide good cheer and service to those in need. Many teams are taking on missions to better the community around them. One such initiative is a partnership with the Medford Family Network, an organization that strives to help local families in need by providing concrete support — in the form of food, clothes, baby formula and more— and programming for parents and children. 

Athletics has a designated civic outreach coordinator, former Tufts football player Frank Roche. He has spearheaded the initiatives to expand Tufts’ outreach through athletics to the surrounding community to benefit both the community and the teams themselves. 

Upon starting in the position he spoke about what the position would mean to him and some of his aspirations.

“As a former Jumbo, Coach [Jay] Civetti and many others here have instilled in me an appreciation for the growth that student-athletes can experience in a service setting,” Roche told Tufts Athletics. “There are already so many amazing things being done in our athletic department and this role provides the opportunity to elevate our impact in the community even more.”

This year, one of Tufts athletics’ major initiatives is the Jumbo Giving Tree, a partnership with the Medford Family Network to pair local families with athletic teams, who purchase gifts for them from a wish list. This year, six families will receive gifts from Tufts athletic teams.

Roche described some of the other initiatives that the athletics department is participating in or looking to participate in in the future. Currently, both the men’s and women’s soccer teams are helping out at local soccer clinics for children with disabilities. In the future, teams will be paired up with local senior citizens to help them get regular exercise.

“I think civic outreach and having civic identity is important as a student-athlete because you're more than just an athlete, especially at Tufts,” Roche said. “As a former student-athlete at Tufts, I think some of the times I grew the most was outside of practice and normal team activities but you know, getting outside your comfort zone, and gaining more knowledge of the community that you live in.” 

This weekend, the volleyball and baseball teams threw a holiday party for local children in the foster care system. Brittany Bennet, a junior middle hitter on the volleyball team, reflected on the experience.

“It's really fun to … get to actually see the impact you're making like right in front of you.” Bennet said. “Directly getting to speak to the people that we're helping is really moving for a lot of us.” 

Organizing and participating in these types of events is mutually beneficial, as the athletes get the chance to connect with the surrounding community and provide support to them in the process.

“It’s really awesome to get to provide [gifts] to kids who might not get [them] and it’s also just a great opportunity for our team to like, get closer together off the court and outside of classes, and do something for our whole community,” Bennet said.

The impact that Tufts students can have on their local communities is significant, and small initiatives such as those carried out by the athletics department can add up to have a larger influence. 

“I think the relationship is beneficial for both parties,” Roche said. “Our student athletes can learn a lot from those experiences, and with you know, 900-plus athletes, who are very intelligent and driven and motivated, a lot can be accomplished.”