Children from the Edwardsville area and surrounding communities spent time with student-athletes on Friday at the annual Kids’ Night Out event at the Vadalabene Center.

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Intercollegiate Athletic Department partnered to make the event possible.

In order to ensure that all children would enjoy the night, athletes were assigned to various activities, including crafts, movies, basketball, volleyball and board games. In the middle of the evening, kids were treated to cookies, popcorn and drinks.

“There’s things that are a little more relaxing like the crafts station that aren’t as high energy as other activities like when they’re playing basketball or chasing people around,” SAAC adviser Brianna McCarthy said. “There’s a wide variety of things you can do to keep yourself occupied and keep yourself moving.”

The event provides a unique opportunity for community children to engage with student athletes. Many different teams participated in the event, including basketball, volleyball, men’s soccer, volleyball, wrestling and women’s tennis.

“Some of the [athletes] are the kid’s role models; they look up to them,” graduate assistant Matt Lovelace said. “They are performing at the highest level in collegiate sports at a Division I university and the kids absolutely love it.”

The athletes enjoy connecting with the children as well. McCarthy said that many athletes volunteer at the event even if their team does not require them to.

“[This is] a good representation of who our student athletes are,” McCarthy said. “They’re great humans both on and off the court and they’re volunteering out of their busy schedules because they want to interact [with the kids] and give back to the community. It’s something that we are all very proud of them for.”

In the midst of the holiday season, Kids’ Night Out gives parents some much-needed alone time.

“We kind of sell it as a night for parents to go out and Christmas shop,” Associate Athletic Director Katie Zingg said. “So, give your kids to us and you go out and take a night to decorate, shop or just take four hours to yourself this time of year.”

Parents paid $20 for their first child and $5 for every additional child. However, the price of the child dropped to $15 with the donation of five non-perishable food items or toiletries. These donations were given to the Cougar Cupboard.

“Each year, the SAAC students come up with what they want to do as a donation,” McCarthy said. “With the Cougar Cupboard recently developing [at SIUE], they thought that it would be a good idea to collect items tonight that we could give back on our own campus.”

According to Lovelace, the main goal of the event was to build connections between SIUE and the surrounding communities, which will ultimately help SIUE athletics.

“We are trying to get more of a connection with the surrounding areas and I think if we build this up to what we think it can become, we can impact a lot of people and a lot of people will come to the games more often,” Lovelace said.

Freshman volleyball defensive specialist Grace Hurst recognizes how reaching out to the community positively shapes the image of the school and its athletes.

“I think [Kids’ Night Out] helps the community by getting everyone involved and showing that not all of our athletes are only caring about their sports, but that we are caring about everybody,” Hurst said. “We support those that come to support us, and I think that’s a good thing to [be able to] say.”

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