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Student-athletes team up to support the Kingston community

The Varsity Leadership Council collects and donates food and hygiene products to local charity Martha’s Table.

Varsity Leadership Council members delivers donations to Martha's Table
Varsity Leadership Council Vice President of Athlete Involvement Manuel Dirube, left, and Co-Presidents Colton Celentano and Sydney Hutchinson help deliver a van full of donations to Martha's Table. (Supplied photo)

Queen’s student-athletes from the Varsity Leadership Council (VLC) recently collected and delivered 60 baskets of food and hygiene products to families through local charitable organization Martha’s Table.

With 21 Gaels teams participating, the varsity community donated over 1,200 items and $150 in gift cards, with each basket containing enough items to support a family of four. Among the items donated were 240 toothbrushes, 120 tubes of toothpaste, 180 cans of tomatoes, 120 boxes of pasta, and 210 pounds of potatoes, enough to fill an entire minivan and exceed the VLC’s donation goal. 

As a student-athlete organization, VLC aims to build relationships within the Kingston and Queen’s communities through volunteering and outreach initiatives. Leading and participating in initiatives such as the collection of food and hygiene products provides an important opportunity for Queen’s students to contribute and give back in a meaningful way.

“The most rewarding part was seeing the surprised look on the faces of the staff at Martha’s Table when our team kept bringing out cart after cart of food donations. We weren’t even sure one van was enough to transport all the food,” says Colton Celentano, a member of the Gaels men’s lacrosse team who, along with women’s water polo team member Sydney Hutchinson, serves as co-president the VLC. “Our expectations for ourselves were smashed because of the incredible effort on behalf of all our teams and clubs,”

The VLC’s activities were limited last year due to the pandemic. In response, the co-presidents came up with a plan to boost the council’s efforts and bolster the ties with the Kingston community.

“Our goal this year was making a bigger impact across the board by looking at what the VLC has done in the past and adding on new initiatives,” says Hutchinson. “The VLC brings together an incredible group of hard-working, busy, student leaders at Queen’s that excel in sport and academics and who want to make a difference in our community.”

Having run this initiative, as well as other volunteer efforts for organizations such as Pathways to Education, the Autism Mentorship Program, and Run for the Cure, Queen’s student-athletes continue to build on the tradition of volunteering to help the community and furthering positive outcomes for local families. In addition to their current activities the VLC plans to work with the Boys and Girls Club, Safe Sport January, and the Bell Let’s Talk Initiative in the coming year.

Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands Mark Gerretsen recently recognized the efforts of Queen’s student-athletes, and the VLC in the House of Commons.

To learn more about student-athlete engagement in the community, tune in to the Gaels Get Real Podcast.