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Recognizing the importance of student-athletes connecting to the world around them, the Fighting Illini Life Skills Program presents student-athletes with numerous opportunities to be involved in community service projects on campus and throughout the surrounding communities through our Hometown Heroes program. Through Hometown Heroes, Fighting Illini student-athletes visit schools, nursing homes and hospitals and partner with community organizations to make an impact on our community. The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) takes an active lead in organizing Hometown Heroes events, including the following:
- Big Brothers/Big Sisters Holiday Party. This annual event for children on the waiting list of Big Brothers/Big Sisters provides the kids with the opportunity to decorate holiday cookies, ornaments and cards with their favorite Fighting Illini student-athletes.
- Reading Illini. This outreach program is designed to assist local elementary schools in promoting the importance of literacy to their students. Student-athletes interact with elementary school students one-on-one or in small groups, reading books, or playing word games with a goal of helping students improve their reading skills and vocabulary in a positive, fun environment. Through a recent partnership with the 2nd & 7 Foundation, Illini student-athletes read sport-themed books to 2nd graders and are able to present each child in the class with their own copy of the book to encourage them to read on their own at home.
- Jock Jams. This variety show involving every Fighting Illini team raises money for local charities that hold special meaning to our student-athletes.
- SAAC Thanksgiving Basket Project. The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee organizes this project every November. Fighting Illini teams and staff members provide a basket of food and a gift card to purchase a turkey to families in our community who might otherwise not be able to have a special meal at Thanksgiving.
- Angel Tree Project. Fighting Illini teams purchase toys and wrap the gifts to be delivered to children within our community to ensure they have a special holiday.
- Division of Intercollegiate Athletics