Student-athletes at East Carolina University commit thousands of hours to civic service each school year in Pitt County and the surrounding region, but the Pirates’ women’s basketball team has been perhaps one of the most visible athletic programs in the local community.
Sixth-year Head Coach Heather Macy is the strongest advocate for her team’s visibility in the community and dedication to serving others, setting a high bar for the minimum amount of time her players give back each year – whether the Pirates are in the middle of its five-month long season or not. That number? 500 hours. In her six years at ECU, her team has never fallen short of that standard.
For the second year in a row, an ECU women’s basketball player earned a place on a short list of nominees for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Good Works Team – an organization recognizing players at all levels of college basketball who have made outstanding contributions in the areas of volunteerism and civic involvement. After Abria Trice was honored last year, senior DeVaughn Gray was named one of 103 nominees for the prestigious recognition.
One symbol of Gray’s personal initiative was exhibited in her fostering of a new relationship with the Cyprus Glen Retirement Community in Greenville. Her commitment became more than just service, as her efforts encouraged her teammates to get involved as well. The rapport built with the residents turned into a large group of new fans that attend most, if not all of the Pirates’ home games in 2015-16.
“I was helping former ECU professors, which was kind of cool because getting involved with them as a current student, I felt like I was giving back to them for all they gave to get the university where it is today,” Gray said. “After our first visit to Cyprus Glen, everyone on the team realized they need people like us in their lives because they don’t have family members or other people visiting them on a daily basis. For some of them, it’s been years since they’ve seen their families or they don’t have anyone left. Once I explained that to them, they understood and wanted to be involved.”
In the Fall 2015 semester alone, 15 East Carolina Women’s Basketball players accumulated 208 hours of service to a broad range of organizations that includes events such as Welcome M.S., Cyprus Glen, Exceptional Flag Football League (Greenville Recreation Department), Aces for Autism, Upward Bound Baseball Clinic and numerous events coordinated by ECU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) to serve the local youth.
Just because the Pirates play road games and in tournaments across the country doesn’t mean community service takes a back seat. At the American Athletic Conference Tournament in Uncasville, Connecticut, ECU has sent its players to nearby Mohegan Elementary School to read books to children during down time each of the last two seasons.
On March 3rd, it was another trip to the school, which also marked famous children’s book author Dr. Seuss’ birthday, as the Pirates read some of his famous literature to classrooms, including Green Eggs And Ham and The Cat In The Hat.
The ECU Women’s Basketball team’s impact truly extends beyond the local community and onto a national level, and the influence could never be more apparent when school children in Connecticut don purple and gold t-shirts with a skull and crossbones logo threaded at the center.