USM SAAC’s Unified Sports Program Honored by NADIIIAA

USM SAAC Officer (L-R) Katie Howe (women's basketball), Kimberly Howrigan (women's basketball), Sissy Smith (women's tennis) and Head Women's Basketball Coach/SAAC Advisor Samantha Allen.
USM SAAC Officer (L-R) Katie Howe (women's basketball), Kimberly Howrigan (women's basketball), Sissy Smith (women's tennis) and Head Women's Basketball Coach/SAAC Advisor Samantha Allen.

GORHAM, Maine –  Recognized often for its community outreach programs at the University and national stage, the University of Southern Maine Huskies' Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is earning the top honor from the National Association of Division III Athletic Directors (NADIIIAA) for its Unified Sports Program.  In addition to honoring the Unified Sports Program initiative, NADIIIAA also chose to honor USM SAAC in its Array of Projects category with the Huskies earning third place for its numerous and on-going community service efforts. 

Having previously earned honorable mention and Award of Merit status for its community-service related activities 10 times since 2001, the Huskies' are outright winners of a NADIIIAA Community Service Award for the first time with the recognition of its Unified Sports Program. Winning NADIIIAA's inaugural Community Service Award for Special Olympics Activity, USM SAAC will be formally recognized at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) convention on January 26, and NADIIIAA will make a $750 contribution to the general scholarship fund of the University of Southern Maine. 

Established in 2001, the NADIIIAA Community Service Awards are intended to recognize the many contributions Division III student-athletes regularly make to their campuses and local communities. Comprised of athletics administrators from more than 350 institutions and conferences competing at the Division III level, NADIIIAA annually recognizes institutions in four service categories: One-Time Project, or Activity; On-Going Project, or Activity; An Array of Projects or Activities; and Special Olympics Activity.  

"This honor is reflective of the hard work of many at USM and in our community, including student-athletes and of our many mentors, past and present," said head women's basketball coach and SAAC Advisor Samantha Allen.  "We have enjoyed every moment of planning and executing these events as well as building lasting relationships with community members.  It has been a pleasure to be an advisor to this group of enthusiastic and compassionate citizens who have set a high standard for meaningful community service."  

In its third year, the Huskies' Unified Sports Program adheres to the Special Olympics model of promoting social inclusion through sport. USM SAAC achieves this through offering weekly "skills and drills" sessions and social activities with area Maine Special Olympic Athletes and Southern Maine student-athletes.  During the first semester of the 2018-19 academic year, USM SAAC opened its Unified Sports Program with a Patriots and Pizza Social and concluded with a Holiday Cookie Decorating Party to bookend athletic-focused sessions for basketball, floor hockey,  soccer and volleyball and partnering with the Community Husky Halloween Party.  Continuing in the second semester, USM SAAC will host additional athletic and social activities through the spring. 

Established during the 2016-2017 academic year, the Huskies' Unified Sports Program has seen steady growth in student-athlete participation and excitement from local Special Olympians over the last two years. During the 2017-2018 academic year, 165 different student-athletes participated in the program, volunteering more than 2000 combined hours, while forging relationships with community athletes.   

A campus leader, USM's SAAC has been contributing to the fabric of Southern Maine's community since its inception as a student group in the late 90s.  Winning the University's Outstanding Contribution to Community Service Award consecutively in 2017, 2016 and 2015, and having its Kick the Stigma event named the USM Event of the Year in 2018, USM SAAC has been recognized in all three categories by NADIIIAA since the program's inception in 2002.   Last year, USM SAAC'S 2016 Active Bystander/Peer Advocacy Training program, a collaboration between USM SAAC, University Counseling Services and University Health Services, earned honorable mention recognition. 

This year's Award of Merit honor for its Array of Projects recognizes the breadth and depth of the student-organization's programs which range from topics of mental health to charitable giving and fundraising. Over the course of the 2017-2018 academic year, USM SAAC sponsored or engaged in the following activities: Spike the Stigma Tournament, Spread the Word to End the Word, Community Husky Halloween Party, Holiday Caroling with Area Retirement Communities, Volunteering at Preble Street Resource Center, Skate with the Huskies, Veterans Day Toys For Tots Drive, and its Unified Sports Program.  

            Piggybacking on the popularity of its award-winning Active Bystander/Peer Advocacy Training program and Kick the Stigma Kickball tournament, USM SAAC hosted a Spike the Stigma Volleyball Tournament as part of Mental Health Awareness month.  Creating a fun and informal competition, USM SAAC created the program with the goal of facilitating educational opportunities for students about available on-campus resources regarding mental health, and providing exposure for University Counseling Services in a relaxed and festive atmosphere.  

            The Community Husky Halloween Party and Skate with the Huskies events are fun, family-oriented programs held annually to give children from local communities an opportunity to interact with USM student-athletes.  Previously recognized by NADIIIAA, the Community Husky Halloween Party is held in conjunction with the Gorham Department of Recreation.  Each of USM's 22 teams is responsible for either the games/activities or set-up and break down of the event, and each year approximately 250 children from surrounding towns participate in the event which has been hosted by USM Athletics over the last 10 years.  

            In a recent partnership with the Marine Corps Reserves, USM SAAC was able to host a successful Toys for Tots Drive during the women's basketball team's Veterans Day tournament.  As part of the charitable event, USM SAAC was able to collect over $1500 in gifts-in-kind and toy donations to help create a special Christmas day for children in need in the State of Maine.  

            Founded in 1996 with a handful of student-athletes under the direction of current Associate Director of Athletics Kim Turner, USM's SAAC began with the simple idea of making a difference in the USM community and beyond.  Comprised of student-athletes from all 22 of the Huskies' intercollegiate athletic teams, the goals of SAAC focus on improving the quality of the athletic experience for all participants, involving student-athletes in educational programming and leadership opportunities, and implementing outreach programs that support and nurture the growth and development of children in the surrounding communities.  

            "USM's Student Athlete Advisory Committee exemplifies the core values of the athletic department, and is an outstanding representation of our student-athlete body as a whole and the leadership they provide," said Turner.  "Steadfastly demonstrating excellence in balancing service to community, intense academic demands and athletic commitments, I am exceptionally proud of our student-athletes.  Under the leadership of advisor and head women's basketball coach Samantha Allen, the program has flourished and become a more active voice on campus and in the lives of the student-athlete community.  Samantha and the SAAC officers –president Kimberly Howrigan, vice president Katie Howe, secretary Sissy Smith and public relations officer Johnny Kyte – and the entire SAAC organization are very deserving of this honor and I am appreciative of their efforts."

            

2018-2019 USM Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Officers

President:

Kim Howrigan, Senior, Women's Basketball

Vice President: 

Katie Howe, Junior, Women's Basketball

Secretary:

Sissy Smith, Senior, Women's Tennis

Public Relations:

Johnny Kyte, Junior, Men's Ice Hockey

 

 

Civic Engagement Team

Miriam Wood, Senior, Women's Lacrosse

Elise Laslavic, Sophomore, Women's Lacrosse

Sarah Michaud, Senior, Women's Soccer

Zach Hoyle, Sophomore, Men's Track & Field

 

 

 

Awards and Honors

2000-2001

USM Outstanding Student Organization Award, Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Award of Merit 

2002-2003

Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Award of Merit 

2003

USM Outstanding Student Organization Award 

2003-2004

Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Award of Merit 

2004-2005

Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Award of Merit 

2005-2006

Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Award of Merit 

2006-2007

USM Outstanding Student Organization Award, Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Award of Merit 

2008

USM Outstanding Student Organization Award, USM Outstanding Contribution to Community Service Award 

2009

USM Outstanding Contribution to Community Service Award 

2010-2011

Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Honorable Mention (Array of Projects Category) 

2012-2013

Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Honorable Mention (On-going Project Category) 

2013-2014

Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Honorable Mention (On-going Project Category) 

2015

USM Outstanding Contribution to Community Service Award

2016

USM Outstanding Contribution to Community Service Award

2017

USM Outstanding Contribution to Community Service Award

2018

USM Event of the Year Award 

2018

Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Honorable Mention (One-Time Project Category). 

2019

NADIIIAA Community Service Award Winner (Special Olympics Activity Category)

2019

NADIIIAA Community Service Award of Merit (Array of Projects Category)

 

 

 

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