SAN FRANCISCO, Ca. (WCIA) — For about 50 Illini players, coaches, and staff members it was all about giving on Saturday. They volunteered their time at St. Anthony’s, a safe place for the homeless population in the Bay Area.
Danville native Caleb Griffin is one of the many that are happy to give back.
“The way we’ve been treated here, all the meals here, like everything that we’ve gotten here and then there’s people who are living like this and eating like this,” he said.
The Illini redshirt freshman kicker passed out meals to the homeless and helped clean up trays Saturday morning. He came to donate his time but left with more than he gave. “It gives you a perspective of how lucky we are,” Griffin added.
His teammate, Sydney Brown, worked with a smile on his face. The sophomore safety has never done anything like this before.
“It definitely humbles you for sure, makes you realize what you have,” Brown said. “Just to see people like this and be able to connect and talk to them while giving them meals.”
St. Anthnoy’s serves meals every day of the year, with more than 2,000 people a day walking thru the doors to eat. Volunteer coordinator Karen Hernandez says it’s always good to see the teams playing in the bowl game giving back as part of their time in the Bay Area.
“You know you’re already coming in as a team and then you’re doing this team building exercise, so to kind of learn how we operate and see how it all comes together, I think it’s probably one of the most valuable things they can experience,” Hernandez said.
One of the people making sure everything runs smoothly is Ned Moran. The 1982 U of I alum directs traffic, making sure everyone who comes in gets a tray.
“I moved up here about 10 years ago to finish my career and now I just enjoy giving back to the community and it’s so great seeing everybody from Illinois here today,” Moran said.
And for the players, it’s an unforgettable experience to make an impact.
“You see homelessness everywhere and now being able to help them out in the kitchen and have a part and say that I’ve been able to help the community it’s something different that I’m excited to do,” Brown added.
Several Illini also served in St. Anthony’s free clothing program, sorting and stacking coats and other clothes to help keep people warm and dressed in the city.
From there the team made the trip to Oakland to practice at Laney College. They will have a walk through at Levi’s Stadium down in Santa Clara on Sunday but this was the final official full practice of the season as they get ready to face Cal on Monday.
“I’m still just trying to wrap my head around it honestly,” running back Reggie Corbin said. “The fact that we got to practice today in California is unreal but I’m glad that all the stuff we went thru. I got the greatest group of guys and I wouldn’t have wanted to go to war with anyone else. So I’m excited to have this group here.”
The Illini will take a cable car ride at Pier 39 tonight and enjoy a players only dinner before all attention turns to the game on Sunday.