SAAC Holds its First Jumping Into the Community Tournament

Dozens of student-athletes gathered at Draddy Gymnasium on April 17, some wearing basketball jerseys, others wearing Hawaiian shirts, others athletic gear, but none in their team uniforms.

Last Sunday at the Student Athlete Advisory Committee’s first annual Jumping Into the Community Volleyball Tournament, student-athletes joined to participate in a competition where the funds would go to the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center.   

Volleyball Tournament
The proceeds for the event will go to benefit the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center. Kenneth Hoyt/The Quadrangle

“We thought by having this tournament for KHCC it would bring more awareness to Riverdale and the school because they do such a great job,” Jade Gray, SAAC representative for the volleyball team, and part organizer of the event said.

Together with Gray, Allie Yamashiro, also of the volleyball and vice president of SAAC, planned Sunday’s event. The two went on a L.O.V.E. trip to El Salvador, where they held a similar fundraiser, and after volunteering at a therapeutic recreation class with the Special Needs Program at KHCC in the fall of 2015, they decided they could replicate the event at Manhattan with the funds going to KHCC.

“Allie put this whole entire thing together and she did an amazing job,” Casey Silvestri, president of SAAC said. “I turned around to Allie and said, ‘do you need anything,’ and she’s like, ‘nope, got it.’ It’s because of dependable people like her that we’re able to do such amazing things.”

The event featured student-athletes and students competing in a volleyball tournament, where the winners took home several prizes including a $25 gift card to the Manhattan College bookstore.

Four five hours, student-athletes had the chance to socialize with other students, as well as learn about the benefits of KHCC.

“Just more knowledge about Kingsbridge Heights Community Center,” Yamashiro said she wanted people to leave with when they attended the event. “It’s right here in the Bronx, it’s so close to us. It’s a great way for us to help out, and just to see more of what this community, the Bronx community and the Kingsbridge community is all about.”

The Special Needs Program at KHCC offers help to people with mental or physical disabilities. On Sunday, Hanna Gabris, director of the Special Needs Program brought with her six adults in the program, who had the chance to participate in the event and interact with student-athletes.

“To me personally just besides the financial aspect of it and the physical support, to me what is really important … to touch folks here and students and bring awareness,” Gabris said. “This is a population which is I think really misunderstood. People have their fears and not that much experience with really knowing who they are and what they are able to do. They’re also kind of neglected in society, so I’m trying to change that culture and be a huge advocate.”

Sunday’s tournament is the first of what KHCC’s directors hope become an annual event.

From left to right, Hanna Gabris and Margaret Della of Kingsbridge Heights Community Center speak at the tournament. Daniel Ynfante/The Quadrangle

“I think awareness is very important,” Damarr Smith, associate director of development at KHCC said. “Obviously being a nonprofit in the middle of the Bronx you want as many partners to know what the work you’re doing, but then you need the advocates going out there saying the positives that you’re doing. And the best advocates are the people that have been in the program, that have worked in the program, so people like Allie and Jade to spread the word.”

“This is something that we’re so proud of because it really helps our participants be main stream,” Margaret Della, executive director of KHCC said, “and that there’s opportunities to take trips and have physical activities and develop their own creativity in the arts. Everything that every individual in life should be able to access.”

For SAAC, who ranked second in the NCAA for most community service hours in the fall semester of 2015, events like the volleyball tournament are enticing for student-athletes to participate.   

“Because we’ve created events where student athletes can have fun like today and making it campus wide, people are enjoying themselves and getting involved,” Silvestri said. “They’re joining the bandwagon with everybody else.”