Vanderbilt Student-Athletes Host Christmas Party

The Hendrix Room is usually known for Magic Noori's award-winning training table, but on Friday morning, pizza and presents ruled as Vanderbilt student-athletes welcomed 55 first graders from Ross Elementary to a Christmas party.

The tradition was initiated seven years ago by the late Ed Martin, who was a member of the 100 Black Men organization. The organization was working with the school, and since Coach Martin was affiliated with Vanderbilt, the linkage between the school and the Vanderbilt Athletic Department came naturally. Before Coach Martin's death, he handed the reins over to Kevin Colon, Director of Life Skills in the Athletic Department.

Now the party has become an annual Reading Day tradition, though different schools are invited from year to year. This year was Ross Elementary's fourth year to be the special guest -- their second year in a row.

"The children really look forward to it" says Jo Beene, the Family/School Coordinator at Ross Elementary. "For some of these children, this will be the best time they have at Christmas, so we're glad that the students think enough of our children to provide this for them."

It's up to the Vanderbilt student-athletes to make it happen. They donate the money, shop for the gifts, wrap them, play Santa and elves, and act as host and hostesses for the party. Each team is given a list of children, along with their Christmas wish lists, and the student-athletes take it from there.

Each team decides for itself how to handle their share of the responsibility. The women's basketball team decided to divide up into classes, so that the seniors adopted one child, the juniors another, and so on. Lacrosse delegated with responsibilities by appointing two designated shoppers. The members of the women's golf team made it a group effort . "We all went together shopping," junior Sarah Jacobs told VandyMania. "It was a blast, an absolute blast."

After the pizza was handed out, as the children were chowing down and playing with their new toys, VandyMania wandered through the boisterous, but happy, crowd and snapped some photos along the way.

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Tara Schmucker, a midfielder on the lacrosse team enjoys some pizza with her new friends. The morning's festivities were only half the fun for the lacrosse team, who were also hosting a party at the Children's Hospital later in the day.

Sophomore golfer Joni Gossett and friend at setting up a game of Ker-plunk. Ker-plunk, for the unitiated, is a cross between pickup sticks, marbles, and Jenga. You stick the pickup stick thingies in, as Jody's doing in this picture, then put the marbles on top. Then you remove one stick at the time. The object is to collect as many marbles as possible. Or maybe it's as few marbles as possible? Details, details.

Sophomore Kendra Sasa from the women's soccer team is doing her best to create a small dark space so that glow-in-the-dark Batman can be properly appreciated.

Sophomore Matt Doll from the cross country team engages in a good old-fashioned game of "I'm going to tickle you!"

Kevin Colon, Director of Life Skills in the Athletic Department, prepares to put his own skills on the line in a highly competitive game of Candyland.

Freshman Joanna Serago from the cross country team is putting the finishing touches on her brand new manicure, which her new friend has just completed with her brand new manicure kit.

Junior Sarah Jacbos, from the women's golf team, and friend look up from their preparation for a game of Junior Monopolopy.

It's not the most glamorous job of the day, but somebody's got to do it. In this case "somebody" is freshman golfer May Wood, who manages a smile while collecting discarded empty cups, pizza crusts, wrapping paper and ribbon as the happy guests head back to school.

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