Earlier this week UCF President John C. Hitt talked about the compassion and character of university faculty, staff, administrators and students in the face of a crisis like Hurricane Irma. After Irma tore through Central Florida, the UCF Wrestling Club members put that empathetic spirit into action. Twenty members mobilized to help clean up the hardest hit communities in the area.

It all started with a flyer the team created and then canvassed across Central Florida from east to west. UCF to Downtown Orlando to Windermere, requests for help came in by the dozens. Nearly 80 in all. The team responded on a first come first serve basis then headed out to help. They cleaned up debris from streets and yards, and moved tree limbs onto curbs outside the homes of several families.

Jesse Gaudin, a senior Sport and Exercise Science major in the College of Education and Human Performance, and a three-year member of the Wrestling Club, says the debris nearly trapped one family they met, “They had huge limbs covering their front door and were unable to leave the house. It took four wrestlers to drag the tree to the street.”

Gaudin credits organizational skills he learned while participating in the UCF Sport Club program for helping him pull the relief efforts together so quickly. He said the most rewarding part of the volunteer work was the opportunity to help so many people, “We came in contact with numerous families in the community, some including UCF alumni and faculty. It was great to build connections and establish an identity of our wrestling club within the community.”

Those connections helped the team collect donations for another Irma relief effort. Staff members at the UCF Knights Helping Knights Pantry gave out nearly all of its inventory to students in need before the storm. The shelves were bare. The team dropped off over 720 pounds of food and water during a Student Union drive to restock the pantry earlier this week. Gaudin was proud to be involved, “The people in the community were very gracious. Everyone commented about how much of a service we were to the community, and how much our help meant.”

Sport Clubs is one of six program areas at the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center. The Student Government Association supports and partially funds the program. For more information about the program, contact Coordinator Andrea Snead at 407.823.2408 or andrea.snead@ucf.edu.

See more photos here.