For more than a decade, Tar Heels have made a tradition of helping create happier holidays for local families. The Share Your Holidays program, an annual event for Carolina student-athletes, pairs UNC teams with local families in need. Each team "adopts" one or more local families, shopping for gifts from wish lists provided by the families, then wrapping and delivering the gifts.
This year, UNC student-athletes and staff served 12 families and a total of 49 people through the Share Your Holidays project. Ten teams participated: football, women's lacrosse, swimming and diving, women's tennis, men's golf, women's basketball, volleyball, women's golf, softball and baseball.
"It means a lot to give back to the community," said senior Kareem Martin, a member of the football team. "By doing this we are making someone's Christmas holiday a little bit brighter. The holiday season is about giving back, and in some small way, I know we are making a difference."
Further spreading the holiday spirit, men's basketball participated in a program through the Salvation Army in which players bought presents for local children. Funding for the shopping spree comes from the sale of team-autographed basketballs throughout the year.
"It's a great opportunity for us to remember to give back," says sophomore Marcus Paige, a member of the men's basketball team. "People look up to us, so to get a chance to do this and give back to the community is great for everybody on the team."
The women's basketball team delivered gifts to its selected family on the final day of exams, Dec. 13. "I think I speak for the entire team in saying this has been really fun in making a difference this Christmas for a local family," said sophomore Megan Buckland, a member of the women's basketball team.
The Share Your Holidays project has been in place for more than a decade. Over that time, Tar Heel student-athletes have "adopted" more than 120 families.
" The ability to directly affect a family through giving is a great feeling and gives the adults and children hope for the upcoming year," said Chaniel Nelson, a member of the volleyball team. "It is an honor for them to allow us to be a part of their Christmas."
While Share Your Holidays is the widest-ranging and longest-running Christmastime project in which UNC student-athletes participate, it's not the only one. Before finals started, Tar Heels decorated cookies and delivered them to Ronald McDonald House. On Dec. 13, the last day of finals, a group caroled at Charles House, an eldercare center, with another scheduled to sing there on Tuesday.