AU athletes find ways to support the community despite the pandemic
‘I knew those I worked with would be some of the hardest hit by COVID,’ recent graduate says
The coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it, and many have found themselves in need. Some people, including current and former AU athletes, have come out to support affected Americans in a variety of ways.
Former women’s volleyball player Vela McBride, who graduated in the spring, took the initiative to help out early on in the pandemic. McBride, along with other AU student-athletes, volunteered at the Capital Area Food Bank in D.C. to help distribute food to people.
“I had previously worked with the food bank as part of my major requirements. I just loved working there for the organization and loved working with the people, so when COVID hit, I came back to volunteer,” McBride said. “I knew those I worked with would be some of the hardest hit by COVID.”
McBride said that working at the food bank inspired her to pursue a career focused on addressing food insecurity.
“Working with the food bank and food insecurity has led me to pursue an internship in nutrition literacy and food insecurity at the Center for Science [in] the Public Interest, but this time through a policy lens with their SNAP team,” McBride said.
The team focuses on policy for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Former AU swimmer Ryan Jolley, who also graduated this year, contributed in a different way. Jolley, along with her family, has used her craft skills to raise over $4,000 for Project C.U.R.E. , a nonprofit that provides medical equipment and supplies to under-resourced areas across the globe, sending medical supplies to first responders and medical workers.
“I had previously already had a tie-dye business, 'Ryedye', selling custom shirts and socks online,” Jolley said. “After we had to come back home from the pandemic, my sister and I decided to help out by selling homemade masks and donating the profits to Project C.U.R.E.”
Jolley raised these funds early in the pandemic, which helped medical workers who were desperate to find the supplies necessary to help both themselves and their patients.
Wrestler Elijah Murphy has garnered national recognition for his work before and during the pandemic. Murphy’s work with nonprofit The Grassroot Project, which has student-athletes engage with and mentor D.C. students, earned him a Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award at the 2020 ESPYS.
Murphy’s work has not been stopped by the pandemic. He has appeared multiple times on The Grassroot Project’s YouTube channel as they continue to put out content related to mental health issues.
“I'm looking forward to getting back in the classrooms,” Murphy said. “You know, having fun with the students and engaging with them and facilitating discussion. I'm really looking forward to getting back to doing that; it was really fun.”