Photo courtesy of UMF Adviser and student-athlete members of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Back, from left, Cyndi Pratt, assistant athletic director and SAAC adviser; Emmy Corbett from Otisfield; Lydia Wasina from Waterboro and Izac Gomez from Willimantic, Connecticut Front, Erin Jasper from Milford, New Hampshire.; Lily Souza from Wiscasset; Chelsea Davis from Gray; and Chris Frey from Auburn.

FARMINGTON – In the spirit of the holidays, student athletes in University of Maine at Farmington varsity sports programs have recently donated $400 to the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Gerry Wiles Holiday Food Basket Drive.

Donations were collected by the UMF Student Athlete Advisory Committee, an NCAA organization that represents Division III student athletes and encourages community outreach. Sixteen UMF student-athletes are members of SAAC. They represent every UMF men’s and women’s varsity sports program.

UMF varsity sports include women’s field hockey, soccer, cross country, basketball, snowsports (Alpine, Nordic, and freeride ski), softball, track & field and lacrosse; and men’s soccer, golf, cross country, basketball, snowsports (Alpine, Nordic, and freeride ski), baseball, and track & field.

“Student athletes participated in this community service project last year and were anxious to continue the effort again this year,” said Cyndi Pratt, assistant athletic director and SAAC adviser. “Reaching out to make a positive impact on the community is a valuable part of their college experience.”

A longstanding food drive named in honor of Wiles, a local resident known for his charitable work in the community, the Gerry Wiles Holiday Food Basket Program, distributes food baskets to families referred by local service agencies, schools, Operation Santa Claus volunteers, United Way of the Tri-Valley Area, members of the Chamber’s board of directors and other area businesses and agencies.

“We are so appreciative of the generosity of UMF student athletes for a second year in a row to community families in need,” said   Scott Lavertu, executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. “The chamber is so proud to be affiliated with the Gerry Wiles program. It’s wonderful to see the holiday spirit in action.”

Due to the difficulty this year of finding the needed food items, recipients of this year’s food basket will receive their holiday basket in the form of Chamber Bucks, which can be used to purchase food items at participating local food stores that are chamber members.