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Lending a helping, athletic hand

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Manitoba Bisons basketball player Amir Ali takes a box of bacon from head coach Kirby Schepp.

JORDAN THOMPSON Enlarge Image

Manitoba Bisons basketball player Amir Ali takes a box of bacon from head coach Kirby Schepp. Photo Store

After years of talent, health, and support from loved ones, Bisons athletes gave back for a ninth year.

Led by University of Manitoba Bisons men’s basketball guard Amir Ali, 20, Bisons varsity teams took shifts helping out at Siloam Mission from Dec. 9 to 13.

"All the teams go there and all the teams help out with donation sorting, helping in the kitchen, working on the floor talking to people, and just extra hands on deck," Ali said. "Especially with the time of year, Christmastime, they’ve got lots of things to do."

Ali said all but one varsity team volunteered.

Lindsay Smith, 30, started the tradition when she was a volleyball player — she was a middle blocker — for the Bisons in 2005, after volunteering at the mission on her own. Now she works as Siloam Mission’s director of volunteer services.

"For us at the mission, we get a lot of work done in this week because we know that there are some energetic, hard-working people coming the whole week," Smith said. "We basically plan and set up the whole Christmas based on the volunteers that come in this week."

Smith, who hails from North Kildonan, said having the athletes come and help out adds some Christmas spirit.

 "We put little posters up welcoming them, and they wear their team garb," Smith said. "It just makes us feel really good that people would come all the way out from Fort Garry to come serve here at the mission."

Ali said Bisons athletes have a responsibility to help out.

"Understanding that you’re in a position where you’re not only a role model in the community, but also you’re on a platform, and you have the ability to do a lot," said the south St. Vital product. "I think it is critically important for people to use this platform to help serve the community."

Smith has seen the athletes speak with the less fortunate and begin to understand how lucky they are.

 "One thing we really stress to the athletes is it’s not only tangible goods that we get," Smith said.  "Also that sense of belonging that when we step on campus we have a jersey, name, and a number, and we belong to someone and to something bigger then ourselves."

Ali is working on his biology degree. On top of practising with his team, and studying and writing final exams, he organized the teams to go volunteer at the mission. He said he took the time because he’s seen the benefit of the work.

"I’m not going to be a Bisons athlete forever," Ali said. "But right now, if I can do as much as I can while I am on this platform then it’s an opportunity that I don’t want to lose."

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