Sport Management Students Give Back

Sport Management Students Give Back

This past semester, Rice’s Sport Public Relations class (SMGT 466) developed five unique ways to give back to the Houston community under the guidance of Department Chair and professor Dr. Clark Haptonstall. These projects provided awareness, monetary and volunteer support, and an abundance of smiles to three local charities: The Houston Food Bank, Houston’s Walk MS event, and The Nehemiah Center. Altogether the class helped feed 12,140 people and put in over 200 volunteer hours.

The students formed five groups and each group had 2-5 members. Each group created and implemented their own initiative for a cause that they felt strongly about. Social media was key to increasing awareness of their events, raising funds, and involving the Rice community.

Three of the projects elected to benefit the Houston Food Bank in distinctly different ways. Megan Palmer ‘16, Kyley Reed ‘16, Andi Bawcum ‘16, and Kim Vaio ‘16 brought the varsity women’s basketball and volleyball teams together on October 13th for the “Food Bank Battle.” The two teams packed bags for Backpack Buddy, a program designed by the Houston Food Bank to provide meals over the weekends for children in need when they do not have access to the school cafeteria. They filled 1,007 backpacks, which fed both the child and the rest of his or her family for a weekend.

“We were very excited to help at the Houston Food Bank,” said Bawcum. “The opportunity we had to not only bring together the women's basketball and volleyball teams, but to also help in the fight against food insecurity, among the thousands of children in our area, was extremely rewarding.”

“To know that what we packed in just one night will help out 1,000 families across

Houston is unbelievable to me,” Vaio said. “I’m so happy I got the opportunity to support an organization dedicated to wiping out hunger in this city.”

In an effort to spur student participation in volunteer activities prior to the holiday season, Kristie Yit ’16, Adrian Jones ’16, Travis Guzzardo ’16, and Trey Johnson ’16 created “Owls Give Back: Houston Food Bank.” They established November 16-20th as the “Week of Giving,” where students could donate food throughout the week and then volunteer at the Food Bank itself to cap off the event on November 20th. They donated approximately 100 cans of food through the drive, and the volunteer team sorted 9,690 pounds of food, which will feed 7,450 people.

Sport management students at the Houston Food Bank

“Witnessing the joy of our volunteers as they connected with the community was so inspiring,” said Jones. “I think we made a difference not only in the fight against hunger but in the student body’s potential to volunteer in the future as well.”

“We sorted 9,690 pounds of food with 50 people,” Johnson said. “Normally every 100 people will sort about 10,000 pounds, so we almost doubled their normal rate. The volunteers all got really excited in hearing these numbers. It was a great experience.”

Holly Hargreaves ’16, Lauren Hughes ’16, Neel Ahuja ’16, and Travis Stockbridge ’16 partnered with the Rice women’s soccer team to initiate “Goals for Good” where donors would give a small amount for every goal scored during the season. They also partnered with Willy’s Pub to put on “Pub Night for Good,” during which they spread awareness of hunger in Houston to the student body and collected donations. By the end of the project, they raised $1200 for the Houston Food Bank, which equates to 3,600 meals.

“We are very proud that we could reach the community to help so many people and families,” said Hargreaves. “As a group, we are excited that we made scoring goals go further than just our matches. We were able to have an impact on our own community of Houston.”

“Supporting such a great organization through soccer is something I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to do,” Hughes said. “Watching the donations increase with each goal the team scored was a really cool way to watch both entities succeed.”

Michael Warren ’16, Alex Lyons ’17, Ryan Pollard ’16, Tabari McGasky ’17, and Tyler Stehling ’17 looked to the future in designing their project. After noticing the rise of eSports, they decided to host a Super Smash Bros competition with the proceeds benefiting Walk MS, which hosted an event in Houston on November 8. The single elimination tournament took place on November 7th, and the students played for two tickets to a Houston Texans home game donated by former Rice University star and current Houston Texan defensive tackle Christian Covington. The event raised over $197 off entry fees and other donations. The group delivered the check at the Houston MS Walk the next morning.

"It was an exciting and unique experience,” said Pollard. “It was amazing being able to host an enjoyable event while still raising money and increasing awareness for a good cause."

“Overall it was a fantastic experience,” Warren said. “I was proud of our efforts and contributions to the entire event. An event this unique definitely showcases the variety of motivations that exist within different aspects and demographics."

Using their running backgrounds, Chris Sanders ’16 and William Roberts ’17 hosted a track meet on November 18th for the at-risk youth who attend the Nehemiah Center. With the help of some of their friends, Sanders and Roberts organized and ran multiple events including long jump, shot put, 100m dash, and the 8 x 50m relay for the children. Over 50 students attended the event.

“It was a really great experience,” said Sanders. “I enjoyed it a lot, and I think the kids really did as well. It was nice to see the Rice track & field team come together to help make a difference in the lives of these kids.”

“The children truly had a wonderful time,” added Nehemiah Center representative Melodee Jordan. “These will be great memories for them for a long time.”

The Public Relations students put their creativity and ingenuity towards a cause, and their efforts with each of these organizations made positive differences for the local community.

“We take so much for granted being at Rice” Roberts said, “We don’t realize how much of an impact such a small event can have on people’s lives.”

Sport management students at Houston’s Walk MS event

Trey Johnson, a senior from Portland, Oregon is double-majoring in Sport Management and Economics. Megan Palmer, a senior from Katy, Texas, is majoring in Sport Management.