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'Make a positive impact' - Tigers Give Back day
Auburn senior Tray Matthews visits patients at East Alabama Medical Center on Tigers Give Back day.
April 19, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - As soon as Gus Malzahn and two seniors on Auburn’s football team entered the room, a cancer patient’s day took a turn for the better.

“One of the men was going crazy when we walked in,” defensive back Tray Matthews said. “He said, ‘Man, I’m shaking. I’ve got to stop shaking. This is crazy.’ That was probably the best experience, to see his smile and his reaction.”

Matthews and offensive lineman Austin Golson joined Malzahn Wednesday at East Alabama Medical Center, one of seven Auburn Athletics service projects on the ninth annual Tigers Give Back Day, created in 2009 by Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs.

“It was great to be out with our players,” said Malzahn, who visited EAMC patients for the third straight year. “Just trying to make a positive impact and lighten up a few people’s day.”

The players and their coach took pictures, signed autographs and shared encouraging words with patients and their families.

“I think it’s awesome always to be able to come out and give back to the community,” Golson said. “These people have been through a lot and are going through a lot. It’s always awesome to be able to put a smile on their face and spend some time with them.”

<em> Senior offensive lineman Austin Golson visits with patients at EAMC.</em>
Senior offensive lineman Austin Golson visits with patients at EAMC.

Several Auburn gymnasts volunteered in the library at Dean Road Elementary. Basketball coaches visited patients at the VA Medical Center in Tuskegee. Other projects included the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Storybook Farms in Opelika and First Presbyterian’s Bravehearts program for young adults with developmental disabilities.

At Chewacla State Park, Auburn’s 20-member volunteer team, including athletic trainers, student-athletes and staffers from the ticket office, hiked a half-mile with shovels and wheelbarrows to get to their work site.

They spent the morning digging and moving dirt, rerouting a trail for hikers, bikers and joggers.

“Being part of this from the beginning, I’ve seen the difference that it makes,” equestrian coach Greg Wlliams said. “To come out now and see person after person using the trails, it’s just a lot of fun to me to know that a lot of my fellow team members in Athletics are a big part of it. It’s made a huge difference to this park and our community, and it’s fun to have this park talked about all over the Southeast and hopefully even further.”

Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers, a volunteer group, builds and maintains more than 26 miles of multi-use trails in Chewacla, said CAMP director of trails Hank Albritton.

“When you get a group like this, it’s a blitz,” Albritton said. “Same thing last year with the same volunteer day. You actually get to finish a section of trail. Some volunteers will get a chance to come out and ride it later and be able to say, ‘Hey, I did that.’”

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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