Two Virginia Tech student-athletes and an administrator spent a portion of their spring break on a service trip involving those from other ACC schools to provide hurricane relief to areas near Wilmington, North Carolina.
Annalee Johnson, a Tech women’s swimmer from Stafford, Virginia, and Sarah Spicer, a women’s golfer from Bahama, North Carolina, participated in the relief efforts, which took place March 15-17. Natalie Forbes, senior director for student-athlete development within the Virginia Tech Athletics Department, worked with student-athlete development staffs at North Carolina, Clemson and Duke to plan the trip, and she, too, joined in helping those affected by Hurricane Florence.
To recap, Hurricane Florence landed in North Carolina last September and dumped massive amounts of rain that made it one of the wettest storms in U.S. history. More than 35 inches of rain fell in certain coastal areas of North Carolina, causing widespread flooding and destruction. Fifty-three people died because of the storm.
Coincidentally, the 16 individuals (student-athletes and administrators) arrived in Wilmington on March 15 and made a local church their weekend headquarters – six months to the day of Hurricane Florence’s landfall.
The group immediately got to work.
“It was such an incredible and humbling experience to be able to give back to a community that had suffered so much,” said Spicer, whose hometown is near Durham, not too far from the flooding. “Having the opportunity to speak with some of the families who endured the hurricane really opened my eyes to how even small gestures can do so much to help others through difficult times. Overall, it was just a wonderful opportunity, and it has really given me perspective on being kind to others and understanding what they are going through.”
That Friday evening, the group spent time at the Diaper Bank of North Carolina, which hands out diapers and other hygiene products to those with infants and children – many of whom are living in poverty. Their needs become even more critical during times of natural disasters, and the group re-packaged diapers and other products, as well as handed them out.
On Saturday, the group split up and worked on three different homes affected by the hurricane. Volunteers provided assistance with hanging drywall, fixing roofs, painting interior rooms and exterior walls, and clearing yards of debris.
“Having the opportunity to serve the Wilmington community was nothing short of a blessing,” Johnson said. “Despite being complete strangers, we were welcomed with open arms into people’s homes and lives. The ability to share deep connections with fellow ACC athletes as well as those affected by the hurricane will be something I will cherish forever.
“Even though the hurricane victims were facing pain and extreme loss, they instilled in us the power of hope, and the determination to move forward surpasses all. This trip was truly such a gift, and I feel immensely grateful to have been a part of it.”
The trip ended with the ACC group cooking a spaghetti dinner for those in the community who had suffered damage to their homes. The student-athletes handled the cooking and interacted with those still dealing with the aftereffects.
Though there for parts of just three days, the collection of people from around the ACC made a huge impact.
“I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in this incredible service trip and to bring two of our Virginia Tech student-athletes along to serve the Wilmington community,” Forbes said. “As an administrator, I cannot explain how proud I am of our student-athletes, and the student-athletes from the other institutions who used their time on spring break to give back and support a community that continues to face devastation as a result of Hurricane Florence.
“Watching student-athletes who may be rivals on the playing surface come together and serve as one team was truly a humbling experience, and I am honored to be a part of a conference that demonstrates and exemplifies the values of service and support for the community.”