SAAC brings together campus community to raise money for third annual Make-a-Wish Week


Photo courtesy of Charger Bulletin/Jason Kull.

An overhead view from the Polar Plunge, West Haven, March 5, 2023.

Sunshine, blue skies, a light breeze and the sound of waves lapping the shore greeted a crowd of student athletes, friends and families at Prospect Beach at Abbott Park in West Haven. After a few gloomy days, the skies cleared up just in time for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee’s (SAAC) Polar Plunge event, an exclamation point on their biggest philanthropic week of the year.

SAAC kickstarted their third annual Make-a-Wish Week on Feb. 26. In years past, the organization brought in a Make-a-Wish kid to grant their wish and give them a week of excitement and fun. This time around, SAAC seeked to raise $10,000 for the Connecticut Wishing Place headquarters in Trumbull after it was flooded with 200 gallons of sewage.

SAAC is a student-led council for athletes whose mission is “[enhancing] the total student–athlete experience by promoting opportunity, protecting student-athlete welfare and fostering a positive student-athlete image.”

For the fundraiser, every athletic team received their own donation page where family, friends and members of their community were able to share and donate. Each team established a goal of $500, which when reached would allow that team to pie their head coach. If a team was able to surpass the lofty goal of $1,000, an additional pie-ing would be in store for one of their athletic trainers.

Greg Emerson, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in chemistry and sitting president of SAAC, spoke about how this week of events helped build camaraderie across sports teams.

“Naturally we’re athletes, so let’s just make it a competition, like ‘Which team can raise the most?’” he said. “I think this is a great way to just come together for a great cause.”

The week of events began on Feb. 27 in a “Workout for Wishing Place,” where every team created custom workouts correlating to a fact about Make-a-Wish or the Wishing Place: the women’s soccer team hit 18 crossbars in honor of the 18 Wish Kids who visit the Wishing Place every month and did 300 juggles for the more than 300 children currently waiting for their wish to be granted in Connecticut.

Last Wednesday, SAAC held a tabling event in Bartel’s where they raised awareness and took donations for the cause, with a bit of a twist: donations of varying amounts were met with a coupon which could be used at some of the dining locations on campus, like a free sandwich from Jazzman’s or a pack of drinks from the convenience store.

On Friday, a giveback event was hosted at local smoothie spot Westies Nutrition where SAAC ran another table and 10% of all proceeds went right back to Make-a-Wish, allowing students and members of the community to get in their post-workout fix while giving back to a great cause.

The entire week culminated in a grand finale this past Sunday, as the athletic teams invited all who donated to take part in their Polar Plunge. As a token of appreciation for all who went above and beyond to help create timeless memories for kids, a countdown commenced as student athletes collectively sacrificed their own warmth and comfortability while they ran into the bitter cold of the Long Island Sound.

Emerson emphasized the team effort that goes into planning such a busy and impactful week of events.

“We have our [executive board] of five members, but it’s really everyone,” he said. “We, as a group of 30 athletes, talk and communicate about everything and we take everyone’s opinions in… it’s not just a one-person thing. And if it was, [the fundraiser] probably wouldn’t be as good.”

Excluding cash donations, SAAC’s efforts raised $8,774 for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.