On the first day of Christmas, BYU sports gave to me …

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Beginning today, BYU student-athletes will set aside time to participate in the 12 Days of Christmas, during which they will bring Christmas cheer to local families.

The 12 Days of Christmas was started eight years ago by the Cougar Council to help people going through challenges during the holiday season. Students from each BYU athletic team take turns ringing doorbells, dropping presents off and hiding behind bushes to surprise one of four families.

“It gives us an opportunity to help those in our community who watch or attend the sports we play,” BYU swimmer Adelin Marsh from South Jordan said. “This project helps us reach, help and serve them in ways we wouldn’t normally be able to.”

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Noah Hartsock plays Santa, delivering gifts and Christmas cheer last year. BYU athletes will once again celebrate the season with service.
Marsh said the athletes benefit the most by having the opportunity of sharing the Christmas spirit and finding the true meaning of Christmas. It’s a great way of giving back to their community.

The student-athletes from out-of-state and the country feel like they are more a part of Provo and are making a difference. The project also brings a stronger unity among the teams that a court, field or track can’t bring, according to Marsh.

“It’s a chance to show we’re more than just athletes,” said junior Jared Rohatinsky, a member of the track team. “We care about charity, service, the community and helping people out. We don’t just play sports all day.”

Families in the community are recommended by local bishops and Relief Society presidents. Athletes try to find gifts to fit the specific needs of these families.

“We’re not just giving toys. These families are in need of the bare essentials we don’t often think twice about,” Rohatinsky said. “The toys and decorations are just to help make it seem like a real Christmas for them.”

Rohatinsky said once the athletes hear about the 12 Days of Christmas they are more than willing to help out.

“Athletes were pulling money out of their pockets and getting so much for the families,” said Cindy Wakefield, adviser to the Cougar Council. “We chose to help four families instead of two this year to spread ourselves out even more because of large contributions from the athletes.”

Some teams set a benchmark where every athlete donates $10 to $20. At the end of the 12 days, 48 deliveries will be made over a 12-day period with 605 athletes involved.

“The teams can’t do enough and the athletes leave for home thinking they already had Christmas,” Wakefield said.

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