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Athletics Campus & Community Student Features

SJU student-athletes, others in campus communities pack meals for those in need

Colby Kern believes there’s a simple explanation for why so many Saint John’s University student-athletes and other members of the CSB and SJU campus communities turned out to pack meals for those in need Sunday.

“This is one of the reasons why people come to Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s,” the junior swimmer said. “You want to be part of something bigger than yourself. You want to give of your own time and help with volunteer opportunities like this.

“It’s part of who we are at these schools.”

Sunday’s event – held on the SJU campus in Guild Hall – was the centerpiece of the SJU athletic department’s eighth-annual food packing service project. This year, over 325 participants turned out to pack 76,032 meals for Kids Fighting Hunger – a Central Minnesota-based organization that works with volunteer groups to package food and prepare it for distribution where it’s needed most.

Each packaged meal can feed six adults or 10 children, so the number of actual meals is much higher than 76,000.

Student-athletes donate their own money to help cover the cost of the food and members of the SJU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) also collect funds at home athletic events.

This year, Kern – who serves as SAAC’s Kids Fighting Hunger chair – said a total of just over $15,000 was raised in donations.

“For SAAC, this is our biggest event of the year,” Kern said. “It’s the most important thing we do.”

SJU athletic director Bob Alpers ’82 said Sunday’s event was the culmination of a year-long effort by Johnnie student-athletes.

“Our athletes are so conscientious and they have such big hearts,” Alpers said. “SAAC works on KFH all year long. They don’t just show up one Sunday and pack meals. They’ve worked on this before school starts. They’ve worked on it at every home athletic contest we have. Starting at 8 a.m. and going through around 2 p.m., around 325 folks came (out) to pack (meals) on St Patrick’s Day. They are amazing.

“Our students are committed and dedicated to doing good deeds and good work – helping folks who need it, especially on a Sunday in Lent.”

Alpers praised partners like the SJU Student Senate, SJU Campus Ministry and Granite Rotary whom he said help make the event so successful each year.  The groups assist financially and help to pack meals.

He said the effort is also a way for student-athletes to show their appreciation for the opportunities they’ve been given.

“We’re so lucky here,” Alpers said. “Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s are two of the best colleges in the nation and our guys know they are blessed to have the opportunity to represent Saint John’s athletically and do what we love to do.

“Giving back has always been really important to our SAAC guys and they pass that same love of service on to their teammates on each of our teams.”

Max Doom, the 2023-24 SAAC president, said events like Sunday’s are a way to spread positivity in a world that can use it more than ever.

“There needs to be more good in the world,” said Doom, a senior track-and-field athlete. “We see so much negativity out there, and to be able to give back in ways like this will maybe spread hope to other people – whether that’s people here in our community or people somewhere else in the world.

“That’s something I think is needed.”

Over 325 participants turned out to pack 76,032 meals for Kids Fighting Hunger – a Central Minnesota-based organization that works with volunteer groups to package food and prepare it for distribution where it’s needed most.