Student-athletes from Southeastern Conference schools packed 3,500 meals for children and families Saturday as the unofficial start of SEC Media Days in Birmingham.
When Greg Sankey became commissioner in 2015, he envisioned a conference that excelled not only in sports, but also in the character and leadership of the young men and women who play the games. That’s why 68 student-athletes were so busy at the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama.
“One of Commissioner Sankey’s initiatives was to provide leadership development for our student-athletes,” said SEC Associate Commissioner Tiffany Daniels.
“We have developed a student-athlete leadership council. They have come here for leadership development through community service.”
Sankey formed the leadership council, which includes athletes in football and men’s and women’s basketball. The two groups were meeting for the first time Saturday.
“It’s important to the commissioner that these two groups have held a joint meeting,” said Ben Beaty, a communications official with the SEC.
The councils were formed to provide student-athletes opportunities to gather with campus leaders and SEC staff.
The SEC also has a Student Athlete Advisory Committee, or SAAC. Will Herrscher is a junior track star at the University of Alabama and serves on SAAC.
“This is helping feed a lot of people,” he said while taking a break from packing boxes of food.
Herrscher is a Crimson Tide pole vaulter and holds the UA indoor record of 17 feet, 10 inches.
Foster Ballard of Wetumpka swims the butterfly for the Auburn Tigers. His best time is 1 minute, 42 seconds for 200 yards.
He is working toward a degree in construction management and wants to supervise the building of subdivisions.
“If I were not an athlete at Auburn I wouldn’t be here,” Ballard said. “This is a good opportunity to do something good in our community.”
Kathryn Strickland, executive director of the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, said the agency’s mission is “to feed people in need today and foster collaborative solutions to end hunger tomorrow.
“The athletes packed 3,500 meals for children and families at risk of hunger. The Community Food Bank will deliver these meals to 160 families in need.”
More than 80,000 children in central Alabama are at risk of hunger, she said, as well as seniors, veterans and neighbors.