Wildcats to Visit Harlan for Service Trip June 21-23

By Guy Ramsey

University of Kentucky Athletics is partnering with the UK Mountain Cats and the Appalachian Center on UK’s campus to begin yearly service excursions to Eastern Kentucky.

Twenty-five student-athletes and staff members will participate in the inaugural trip, traveling to Harlan, Kentucky, June 21-23 for a three-day, two-night service experience unlike any before. This special group will be embarking on service opportunities, working directly with nonprofit organizations in the Harlan area. This inaugural trip is designed to reach out to an often underserved region of Kentucky, as well as to provide educational opportunities to student-athletes and staff about this particular region of Kentucky.

“We are so excited to connect with the people of the state of Kentucky,” Associate Athletics Director for Life Performance Stephanie Simmons said. “To have this opportunity to give back to so many who support us throughout the Commonwealth is such an honor, and we’re excited to share our appreciation through showing up and trying to make a positive impact with our biggest fans. It’s our hope that we are able to learn more about our state and its people, show how sport can make a difference in a young person’s life, and make a lasting impact throughout the Harlan County community.”

The group will work directly with three nonprofit organizations while in Harlan. Each nonprofit organization has a different focus, which will allow student-athletes and staff to make an impact on many different groups in the area.

The first stop on the trip will be at Willing Hearts, an organization that aims to educate, encourage and empower people, while promoting artistic expression primarily through the use of art glass. On June 21, student-athletes and staff will take a two-hour workshop on stain glass work. They will then use this newfound knowledge to create their own pieces of work, which will then be sold through Willing Hearts. All the proceeds from these sales will go back to Willing Hearts to be used to empower the members of the Harlan community. 

The next stop on the trip will be at Club 180 Ministry, an organization designed to meet the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of children, youth and families in Eastern Kentucky. The group will spend most of its day on June 22 with the youth Club 180 Ministry serves. The day will begin by helping in renovation projects being done on Club 180’s facilities. After renovation work, student-athletes and staff will host a free, multi-sport clinic open to all youth ages 6-13 in first through eighth grade. This camp will promote physical activity and the positive power of sport in daily lives. Following the sports clinic, the afternoon at Club 180 will wrap up with a question and answer/autograph session with youth and parents of the community.


“Willing Hearts and Club 180 are organizations that are drastically different from one another, but each of their efforts are so admirable,” said McKenzie Watson, who graduated this spring after four seasons as a member of the Kentucky volleyball team. “Both organizations are pouring their hearts into their community and providing hope to the people of Harlan. Being from Kentucky, I’m honored to be able to join UK Athletics on this exciting service trip, and I’m looking forward to giving back to the BBN in any way that we can.”

The trip will conclude on June 23 with time serving with different organizations in the Harlan area.

As the service excursion approaches, UK Athletics is working hard to make sure this inaugural trip is one based on gaining experience, knowledge and greater love for the state of Kentucky among the student-athletes and staff embarking on this short journey to Harlan.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for,”  and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.


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