A day before UCF and Baylor compete in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, fans from both schools joined together Tuesday to pack emergency food boxes for nearly 2,000 hungry Arizona residents.
About 100 volunteers worked for an hour and a half, loading supplies such as rice, cereal and orange juice into 1,840 boxes that will be given to senior citizens and young families in need.
The presidents and first ladies of both institutions – UCF’s John C. and Martha Hitt and Baylor’s Ken and Alice Starr – worked alongside cheerleaders and fans from both schools.
The St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance serves 200,000 meals a day and covers two-thirds of the state. Each emergency food box will last three or four days for a family of four in need.
Robert N. Shelton, executive director of the Fiesta Bowl, thanked the volunteers for being “first-class folks” for giving back during their visit to Arizona. He said the extra help and attention this visit provided for St. Mary’s is especially critical as the holidays are winding down and nonprofit organizations begin to have more trouble generating the support they need to meet the needs of their clients.
UCF Provost and Executive Vice President Tony Waldrop participated along with UCF Vice President and Director of Athletics Todd Stansbury, student body president Melissa Westbrook and vice presidents Maribeth Ehasz, Bob Holmes and M.J. Soileau. UCF quarterback Blake Bortles’ family also helped out.
Also on Tuesday morning, members of the UCF and Baylor spirit squads and mascots Knightro and Bruiser visited with children and their families at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. They played pool and other activities with the children in a state-of-the-art play area established in 2012 thanks to the generosity of Garth Brooks’ and Troy Aikman’s Teammates for Kids Foundation, a network of more than 3,000 professional athletes.
The zone includes a theater, performance stage and an interactive broadcast studio where kids create programs for the hospital’s own TV network.
Earlier Tuesday, members of both spirit squads and mascots Knightro and Bruiser woke up before 5 a.m. to spend time on the sets of two Arizona television stations. They talked with a Channel 12 reporter outside before posing for pictures in the studio with the anchors. Then each group of cheerleaders did a brief cheer during an on-air segment at Channel 3.
UCF fans also gathered at an Alumni Association watch party to view the Knights’ men’s basketball team’s American Athletic Conference opener against Louisville.