In the midst of the elections last week, voting was on the forefront of many people’s minds. At the same time, major parts of Weber State University’s Athletics were helping out in the community.
The Wildcat’s women’s basketball head coach Velaida Harris oversaw athletes from across all WSU’s sports teams help out the day before and election day with the voting process at the Weber County Fairgrounds.
Harris was inspired by her mother — a regular at the ballots as a pollster —but because of the pandemic, her mom wasn’t able to be one this year.
With her mom on her mind, Harris decided to bring up the idea of helping with the voting process to her team, and one of the coaching assistants contacted the county to see where they could help out.
“My thought was, ‘why don’t we volunteer to help in any way we can?’ That’s not putting us in any jeopardy,” Harris said.
2020’s been a tough year for so many, and the Wildcat athletes wanted to bring people together.
“How can we contribute to helping somebody else? My players have been really interested in action; what can we do to impact people, whether that’s through social justice or the election,” Harris said. “And with it being election season, how can we make that easier or safer for people?”
The opportunity for the Wildcats to spring into action in the community came, and while election week saw plenty of blue and red at the ballots, at the Weber County Fairgrounds, there was an abundance of purple.
Wildcat athletes did anything and everything from directing traffic to setting up polling stations and answering questions about where to drop off and pick up ballots, all while giving out snacks.
“We set up line markers for people to line up and maintain a safe six feet from each other,” said Dominique Williams, redshirt senior forward on the women’s basketball team. “We set up the actual stations they would walk up to vote at with glass barriers, and we wiped everything down and made sure everything was sanitized.”
WSU’s men’s and women’s basketball, women’s golf and the volleyball teams all contributed and pitched in their efforts at the fairgrounds.
“We did all the set up for the fairgrounds, which was the biggest location they had and where they needed the most assistance,” Harris said.
Harris wanted her team to see the importance casting a vote has in causing change.
“In the summer, our coach helped us all get registered to vote and let us all know the importance of voting,” said Daryn Hickok, sophomore guard on the women’s basketball team. “She explained to us how to get the most information possible about what we were voting for and on, and helping out at the polls really pieced that all together for us,”
The Wildcat athletes enjoyed making a difference in the lives of people in the community.
“A lot of people show us love, in terms of Weber State Athletics, and we wanted to go out there and the do the same, and show the community these young people are very interested in the future and making a difference in their community,” Harris said.
The team felt they made a difference not only for the community members, but for themselves as well.
“My favorite part of it was how involved we all felt, and it was very empowering to be that involved in the community and in a process that’s so important to our country,” Hickok said.
A new tradition may have begun for the Wildcats because the athletes want to continue serving the community through the voting process in the future.
“Helping out this year, I think, inspired our program to get out and do this more often,” Williams said.