Story by Christina Cracolici, Assistant Director of USM Athletic Communications
GORHAM, Maine - With the devastation in Puerto Rico leaving thousands of American citizens without access to power, running water and basic needs, the University of Southern Maine Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, working with freshman student-athlete Raul Gierbolini, has committed to developing fundraisers over the course of the 2017-2018 academic year to pitch in with the rebuilding efforts.
Giebrolini, a freshman on the Huskies' wrestling team who calls Puerto Rico home, approached the USM SAAC, and its advisor/women's basketball head coach Samantha Allen, in a plea to raise awareness and funds to help alleviate the devastation left by Hurricane Maria on September 20.
"I've lived in Puerto Rico all my life, and it will always be home. This September, Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Thankfully my family is okay, but my home suffered, my town has suffered and Puerto Rico has a whole continues to suffer the effects of this natural disaster," said Gierbolini. "Thousands have lost their homes and many have lost everything. Weeks after the hurricane there are still thousands in shelters, and a great number of them are leaving their home, Puerto Rico, for the mainland. However, many cannot just pick up and leave – it is not an option for them. That's why I have started a proposal for hurricane relief and awareness of the current conditions in Puerto Rico at USM. I have faith that with a strong personal effort, and the backing of USM Athletics and its Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, that we can create a series of fundraising/awareness events moving forward. I love my home of Puerto Rico, and I am willing to work very hard to be a small part of its reconstruction."
While the members of the USM SAAC and Gierbolini work on long-term goals and plans for fundraising efforts, immediate monetary donations can be made through http://unidosportpuertorico.com/en.
WHAT IS SAAC?
Created in 1996 with a handful of Husky student-athletes, the USM Student-Athlete Advisory committee has continued to grow in numbers, in activities and in community outreach. The student-led organization is comprised of student-athletes representing all 22 of USM's intercollegiate sports. Since its creation, USM SAAC has earned awards for its community service efforts at the national, regional, and local level.
Recognized by the University over the last three years (2017, 2016, 2015) with its Outstanding Contribution to Community Service Award, USM's SAAC has also been recognized by the National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators (NADIIIAA) with the Josten's Community Service Award on numerous occasions, most recently in 2015. The Huskies were recognized for their efforts in the On-Going Projects category for its long-standing tradition of hosting the annual Husky Halloween Community Party.