Student athletes serve flood-weary community with a hot meal

September 14, 2013 •

On Saturday afternoon, Folsom Field was quiet. But high above the empty grass, in the stadium’s club level, hundreds of flood-weary families gathered for a meal served by CU-Boulder’s student athletes.

Saturday’s scheduled football game between CU and Fresno State was postponed because of the floodwaters still inundating the Boulder area. But the cancellation offered an opportunity. With food already prepared to be served on the club level during the game, the athletic department decided to instead serve the food to the families living in CU-Boulder housing who were forced to evacuate over the last several days as well as to campus first responders.

“I’m glad they canceled the game for something as meaningful as this,” said senior Paul Vigo, one of the captains of the football team, as he joked with families standing in line. “I wish I could do more.”

Vigo was one of about 200 student-athletes who came to the stadium Saturday to serve a bounty of food, from hot dogs, burgers and fries to salad, fruit and cake. The TVs on the club level and the Jumbotrons on either end of the field were all tuned to other college football games, and some evacuees enjoyed a meal outside in the stands watching the Nebraska Cornhuskers play the UCLA Bruins.

“Our football team is here. Lacrosse is here. Men’s and women’s basketball is here and cross country,” said CU-Boulder Athletic Director Rick George. “Every sport is here and a number of coaches.”

George said the idea for the event just made sense: They had food they didn’t want to go bad, and at the same time, there were people in the community who needed help. When Boulder Creek began to swell during last week’s torrential downpours, some of CU-Boulder’s family housing units had to be evacuated as the floodwaters rose. In all, about 355 family housing residents, including children, had to be evacuated.

“A lot of people here still don’t have hot water and don’t have electricity,” said George. “This is our way of giving back. This is our way to say our student-athletes care. This is our community, and we want to support it.”

For freshman and lacrosse player Sophia Gambitsky, from New York, it was especially meaningful to give back.

“We’re here from the East Coast,” said Gambitsky who was at the event with fellow freshman lacrosse player Abby Phelan, from Boston. “My town was hit hard by Sandy; so to come here and help these people means a lot.”

For Bianca Tamadon—who was evacuated from family housing with her husband, a new postdoctoral researcher in chemistry and biochemistry, and their 4-year-old son—Saturday’s lunch was a welcome respite. The flood pushed mud up the stairs of her building, but the debris stopped just short of her apartment door. The Tamadon family arrived last week from Germany, and despite the chaos of the flood, they’ve felt welcome in their new community.

After being evacuated from their apartment, they spent a night in Kittredge Central residence hall.  “It was quite fun for my son; he didn’t want to leave,” she said. “There were other families there, and these wonderful junior students—when I think of it I start to cry—they came with toys and played with the children.”