BYU alumni program provides service through athletics

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BYU alumni chapters will host Cougs Care events during each BYU football away game during the 2023-24 season. Fans can donate books, supplies and toys to local non-profits at the event. (Photo courtesty of Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

BYU students, alumni and fans have the opportunity to provide meaningful service through the Cougs Care program as they cheer on BYU for the 2023-24 football season.

The Cougs Care program, created by BYU Alumni, focuses on giving to local charities during pregame tailgates at each of the BYU football away games.

Individuals can donate books, supplies and toys to benefit refugee groups, expand literacy efforts, provide food for communities in need and collect toys for kids at Christmas, according to the BYU alumni website.

The first tailgate will take place on Sept. 16, when BYU plays the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable items to the tailgate, which will be donated to the historic St. James Missionary Baptist Church.

“BYU alumni are connected for good by doing good wherever we are,” Michael Johanson, BYU alumni association director, said.

According to Johanson, the idea of a large-scale service project at a football game started in 2019 during the Tennessee game in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Over the last four years, the program has slowly started to develop into an official service outlet for BYU fans to participate in, according to Johanson.

Some of the major goals of the upcoming season are providing more attention and context for those unfamiliar with the program in addition to branding everything under one banner, Johanson said.

“We are focused on additional awareness leading up to the event and really formalizing the brand. We called it Cougs Care a little bit last year, but this year it’s the brand,” Johanson said.

Each of the different partners were carefully selected by local BYU alumni chapters before meeting with the Cougs Care team, according to Johanson.

“We don’t go searching for these groups, our local chapters know who they are and what they need,” Johanson said.

BYU’s dedication to service is a fundamental part of the university, according to Lavon Heath, a BYU alum. Heath said uses BYU’s motto, “enter to learn go forth to serve,” to heart each time she walks past the sign at the front of campus.

“The Cougs Care program is an extension of that motto,” Heath said.

The program is beneficial for anyone associated with BYU who supports their mission statement and desire to serve others, according to Heath.

Heath said the program really needs greater exposure and attention leading up to the event.

“I think that fans would really want to participate in this program,” Heath said.

Johanson said there is an emphasis on communication and getting news notifications about the events to local communities earlier.

“It’s not just a game day experience but a longer-term experience for our graduates, friends and fans who can get involved leading up to and especially after the event,” Johanson said.

BYU student Matt Parry believes that programs like Cougs Care are beneficial because they bring a sense of unity and kindness to the university.

“Everyone is really loving here and people show their love and care which really helps the people who may need it the most,” Parry said.

BYU student Isaac Rascon said that BYU should focus more on promoting programs like Cougs Care for students and alumni.

“Any effort for us to reach out and help others is something that we should always be promoting at BYU,” Rascon said.

Although the focus is on the gathering of local communities, BYU fans who cannot attend the event also have an opportunity to donate and participate in the project from a distance, Johanson said.

Johanson hopes to involve a greater percentage of BYU alumni in future projects as more fans become aware of the project.

“(Cougs Care) is to involve the larger segments of the populations of BYU alumni in these large-scale service projects,” Johanson said.

Interested BYU fans can visit the BYU alumni website to learn more about how to get involved in the Cougs Care program.

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