Written by Erin Dunne, Athletics Media Relations Student Intern

The holiday season brings upon us a flurry of shopping, reuniting with family or friends, travel and giving back to our community. The University of Delaware men and women’s basketball programs did just that on December 11 at the Ronald McDonald House in Wilmington, Del.

Amid a stressful finals week, filled with tests and last minute cram sessions, the teams were able to attend the House’s annual Share-A-Night event to spend time with the families who are benefiting from the House’s services. In addition to the “home away from home” care that the Ronald McDonald House already provides for families whose children are experiencing severe illnesses, the House puts on an annual Share-A-Night that brings the community together to celebrate illuminating the House for the holiday season.

“Share-A-Night is one of our biggest fundraisers,” said Pamela Cornforth, the President and CEO of the Ronald McDonald House, explaining how the event works. “We ask the community to pay 15 dollars, which is how much a family would have to pay to stay at the house. And for every 15 dollars donated, we light a light outside at the Ronald McDonald House.”  

In addition to the unveiling of the house lights, the event also featured different speeches from those whose lives have been changed by the Ronald McDonald House, caroling, and autographs, pictures and interaction for the young children from the UD squads. 

Cornforth expressed the importance of the community for this event, stating, “We are in our 20th year of the event, and each year it grows bigger and better because the community is so supportive of the Ronald McDonald House and our families.”

The basketball teams at Delaware are an essential part of that community, as they have been participating in the event for nearly 10 years and provide a strong presence for children and families who are struggling physically and emotionally with illnesses.

“It is wonderful for the kids to have other young adults to look up to,” Cornforth commented. “It adds to the festivities of the event and UD represents what the community does for us, and we’re glad to have that relationship.”

By participating in this event, the Blue Hens are making noteworthy contributions off the court by serving as role models to the children experiencing different diseases, many of whom are Delaware basketball fans themselves. Their presence at the Share-A-Night event is essential in building the community as a whole and strengthening the team bond through service to others.

“It’s a wonderful experience knowing that you’re making even a small impact on the lives of families,” exclaimed Monté Ross, UD’s men’s basketball head coach.

Ross also holds a personal connection to the House, as he previously served on the Board of Directors for six years.  His personal connection carries over to the values he instills into his team, by having the team attend the event.

He shares his desire that the team “always understands that they’re in a privileged positions and as much as we can give back, we want to give back on every term we can.”

For these teams, it is essential that they give back to the community that supports them each season by attending or watching games and help to brighten the days of a family who may be experiencing tough times.

The families, however, are not the only ones who benefit from the basketball teams sharing this event with them; the Hens also benefit emotionally from the experience.

“Our teams take on a special responsibility when they become role models, so for them to be able to be here, to put a smile on a youngster’s face who is struggling means the world, to not only myself, but to the University and certainly to those families, who are making our team smile as well,” remarked Tina Martin, the Blue Hens’ women’s basketball head coach.

Senior Stephanie Leon, who has been doing this event for four years, also spoke about her experience by stating, “It is really just inspiring, coming out here to see the kids and see everything they’re going through. It makes everything we do worth it. We can see that it means so much to them, to sign their posters, and it is so little of our time but it means a lot to them.”

Martin summed up the experience of the event and expressed her gratitude, “I am certainly appreciative of this opportunity to show that we are very good role models on and off the court and to get involved in the community.” 

Setting time aside to attend this event allows not only the basketball teams and the Ronald McDonald House, but also the entire community, to realize the importance of giving back this holiday season.

Everybody is busy around the holidays, but it is essential to recognize and highlight the true spirit of the season and how it can be so mutually beneficial to all.