University students know all too well how difficult it is to fit everything into their schedules. Add in the many hours of work required to compete in high-level athletics and it’s easy to wonder how varsity athletes find the time to get everything done.
However, year after year UNB athletes volunteer countless hours of their very limited free time to help with numerous causes in the Fredericton area, while still maintaining high educational and athletic standards. Two such athletes are Troy Wilson of the men’s track and field team, and basketball player and Athlete’s Council president Hannah Currie.
Currie and Wilson have each established extensive philanthropic records. Wilson—who was one of the winners of the AUS Community Service award last winter—got involved soon after joining the track team. Currie, on the other hand, started seeing volunteerism as a major part of her life during high school, and credits her parents for pushing her to help others from a young age.
Both athletes have been involved in UNB’s Read With the Reds program, where UNB athletes travel to elementary schools in the Fredericton area and read with young students. Much of their other volunteer work has revolved around encouraging kids to become more physically active, something Wilson says is of the utmost importance to him.
“Since I’m a kinesiologist by trade, I really want to get kids moving and get their physical literacy up. Anything to get them to experience something different that they wouldn’t experience otherwise,” he said.
As for Currie, one cause that is particularly important to her is breast cancer research. In her first year at UNB, she cut her hair to make wigs for cancer patients and raised both money and awareness for the Breast Cancer Foundation—something she says she is likely to do again this year.
“Like most people, I have had a number of family and friends affected by breast cancer, as well as many other types. One thing that is in my control is donating my hair to go to those who need it. Hair is important to all women; it’s a sense of identity. So, imagine having no choice but to lose it all,” she said, adding, “To me, that is what I think about the most. Having the opportunity to give someone back their sense of identity.”
In spite of the passion Wilson, Currie and other UNB athletes have for the causes they support, finding time to work volunteering into their already busy schedules can be a major struggle.
“It can get really tough,” said Wilson, when asked how he finds the time to volunteer while competing and working towards his master’s degree. He added that he has recently started working as a teacher’s assistant in an effort to integrate his philanthropy and his studies, since it has been so difficult to find free time otherwise.
Despite the challenges, the knowledge that they are making an impact in their community makes it all worth it in the end.
“An hour here and there for someone else is always worth it,” said Currie. “Fredericton is a second home for me and the community has become another family. Putting time into your home and family doesn’t seem like much of a hassle.”
“There have been a lot of positive experiences—especially with working with the youth basketball teams. It brings me so much joy to work with young girls in sport and share one of my passions with them. It also is an incredible feeling having them look up to you as athletes, students and women.”
Wilson has first-hand experience of the impact kind acts can have on others. During his freshman year he was facing significant financial difficulties, but another athlete’s parent bought him a pair of shoes that he needed to continue competing.
“Now it’s five years later and from someone buying me a pair of shoes, I’m now captain of the team and it has opened up a lot of doors for me,” he said.
“No one can do anything alone. Even if you think ‘oh I did everything by myself,’ there are always things behind the scenes—and without those behind the scenes actions, nothing will get done.”
Considering the many causes UNB athletes contribute to, Wilson believes there is a strong correlation between the traits that make someone a successful athlete and those that cause them to help others.
“It’s mostly the teamwork. While track and field is traditionally an individual sport, it’s like everyone is doing their own event—but in the greater scheme of things, we’re all working together. I see that in the community; I might be one person doing one thing by myself, but if I can give back to the entire community and improve the community as a whole, everyone rises up with that.”
Women’s basketball head coach Jeff Speedy agrees with this sentiment.
“Successful student athletes have to be unselfish and passionate—among other things—and no doubt, many student athletes do a fantastic job giving back because of the kind of person and teammate they are.”
In fact, Speedy looks for strong character in his recruits.
“I love to win games—but to be honest, I care much more that the student athletes on our team are great people. At this stage of my career, I am not sure I could come to work if we did not have such great young women wearing the V-Reds uniform.”
Photos from V-Reds.