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When they represent the University of North Carolina in intercollegiate competition, UNC teams focus on different numbers: goals scored, assists given, averages raised, rebounds grabbed, routines nailed, PRs run, distances covered.

But here’s one impressive number on which they all worked together: 2,176. That’s the total of community service hours donated so far in the 2013-14 school year by UNC student-athletes. With more than a month remaining in the spring semester, the number of hours already has surpassed last year’s total by more than 100 hours. Last year’s total was 2,047 hours.

Those hours have benefited a long list of groups and organizations, including UNC Children’s Hospital, UNC Lineberger Cancer Center, Carolina Dreams, Vs. Cancer, several local elementary schools, Ronald McDonald House, Durham Social Services, Orange County Habitat for Humanity, the Charles House, Single Fathers Due to Cancer and the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center, to name just a few.

“We’re extremely proud of all the time our student-athletes spend helping others in our community,” said Cricket Lane, assistant athletic director for student-athlete development. “It’s amazing to me that they contribute the hours that they do, considering all of the other demands on their time. We know that the time they devote to Carolina Outreach is well-spent, both for the people our student-athletes are helping and for the student-athletes themselves.

One or two members of each squad serve as Carolina Outreach team representatives, helping to organize events and get their teammates involved, and that group of representatives meets monthly to discuss upcoming events and ideas. At each meeting, student-athletes fill out reflection sheets detailing the events in which their team has participated and their take-aways from the experience. Here are some of the comments from this year:

  • “Coaching the kids helped me remember the joy that soccer brings people and reminded me why I love the game!”
  • “It was great being able to cheer on the same people who cheer us on during our meets. It let the community know how much we appreciate them.”
  • “All of us know someone affected by cancer. Being able to raise money to help beat it is something we all felt connected to.”
  • “I learned that even in difficult life situations, people find the positives. And if people have endured worse things than I have and are still positive, then I should be able to do it.”
  • “We learned that helping others and reaching out can make a difference for them and for us. We will look for more opportunities to reach out.”

And as they do, the most impactful statistic of the school year will continue to rise.

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Published March 19, 2014.