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Students help Boston youth get fit

Northeastern students are distributing checks this week to six Boston organizations that promote youth fitness through Husky Wish Gift, a philanthropic program started this academic year by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

Grants ranging from $500 to $1,200 cover uniforms, equipment, and participation fees, and support program budgets for teams and organizations (recipients detailed below) that offer sports and exercise opportunities to Boston youth.

“I personally benefited from the advantages of sports as a young kid,” said Missy Elumba, ’09, founder and executive director of Husky Wish Gift, and 2009 recipient of the prestigious national Hockey Humanitarian Award recognizing top college athletes’ community involvement. “There are millions of kids who don’t get such an opportunity, and just as many community programs that don’t get the support they need to keep them going,” she added. “This is where the Northeastern SAAC Husky Wish Gifts come in.”

Northeastern’s SAAC Husky Wish Gift program is developing a sustainable philanthropic framework, so that it will be able to support youth fitness in the communities surrounding the University on an annual basis. Through creative fundraising, including a “date auction” and matching funding from the Colonial Athletic Association, the program raised more than $5,000 for this year’s gifts. In addition to making a distinct difference for youth who might not otherwise play sports, Northeastern’s student-athletes learn how to give strategically and further develop their leadership skills.

“Through these gifts, we hope to accomplish greater opportunities for developmental enrichment and instill values of sportsmanship and hard work,” said Kelly Scafariello, senior assistant director, compliance and enrollment services, in the athletic department. “The Northeastern athletics community strives to foster a philanthropic culture among all student-athletes, so wherever our education and athletic determination take us in the future, we have the tools to help others. The committee also hopes to see this framework duplicated in SAAC committees in other universities to benefit multiple communities around the country.”

“I’m so proud that this idea came from the student-athletes,” said Peter Roby, director of athletics. “They were inspired to look outward, to help others rather than being focused just on themselves. Their values speak to the culture we are trying to imbed in the athletic department; for an athletic director, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

2009 Husky Wish Gift recipients:

•Rope Burners of Orchard Gardens Community Center in Roxbury is a competitive double Dutch jump-rope team, a safe means for youth to get involved in sport and exercise. The Husky Wish Gift funds uniforms and nutritious snacks for long days of competition.

•Regan Youth League of Jamaica Plain provides more than 600 children aged 6-15 the opportunity to play organized baseball and softball in an open, safe, and friendly environment. The Husky Wish Gift funds baseball and softball bats for the 2009 season.

•Sportsmen’s Tennis Club provides tennis, academic and social enrichment programs throughout Boston, specifically for youth in the city’s minority and low-income communities. The Husky Wish Gift funds equipment needed for the club’s after-school Match Point program, a community outreach initiative that aims to reach 300 youth.

•Hawthorn Youth Community Center in Roxbury hosts a free summer program where low- and moderate-income youth aged 6-18 can learn double Dutch, soccer and step dance, and develop leadership, teamwork, and violence-prevention skills. The Husky Wish Gift funds hiring high-school students to teach and gain valuable work experience in the process.

•For Kids Only After School Inc. in Revere offers youth aged 5-14 creative fitness and wellness programming, sports education, nutrition and personal enrichment activities through its Youth in Motion after-school and summer program. The Husky Wish Gift enables expanding programming to include soccer and softball instructions, scrimmages and recreational play.

•Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Mission Hill currently enrolls 224 minority students. The Husky Wish Gift funds equipment to start new softball and baseball programs.

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