UCF softball student-athlete Vanessa Perez has helped to organize a holiday gift drive for underprivileged kids, mentored at-risk students and  joined her teammates in “adopting” a 10-year-old girl with a brain tumor.

For those efforts and many others, the senior centerfielder was honored Tuesday as a winner of the Conference USA Spring Spirit of Service Award.

The award recognizes the community service efforts of the league’s student-athletes, based upon significant community service, good academic standing and participation in their sport.  

During the holiday season, Perez helped organize the Gingerbread House of Hope, which enabled underprivileged kids to receive gifts through the Central Florida Children’s Home. She served as a mentor for the Girl Scouts of Citrus County, working with a diverse group of at-risk middle and high school students. She taught them life lessons to apply in school, at home and with friends while also preparing them for college.

Perez also volunteered at Florida Hospital for Children, doing arts and crafts and playing games with youngsters who are dealing with serious illnesses. Throughout the year, she participated in the Seminole County Youth Program, meeting with a group of at-risk teenagers once a month to discuss life goals and lessons.

Perez, who is from San Diego, was also active in the Friends of Jaclyn program as the softball team “adopted” a 10-year old girl with a brain tumor and became involved with her life off the field.

A member of the 2012 All-C-USA Second Team, Perez is an interdisciplinary studies major who has earned C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll selections three times.