On Nov. 3, the football team lost to Brown 20–0, dropping the Bulldogs to a 2–6 record on the season and a last-place tie with Columbia in the Ivy League.
But despite the shutout, it was not an altogether bad day for the Yale football program. Four players who did not travel with the team spent the day delivering supplies to victims of Hurricane Sandy living in the Jacob Riis Houses, a public housing project in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The group came together at the insistence of wide receiver Jackson Liguori ’14, who sent an email Friday night soliciting volunteers for a Saturday morning trip to New York. Liguori, whose grandmother lives in the Bronx, said he was inspired to volunteer with his teammates after reading about the Riis Houses in an article in The Independent, a British newspaper.
“It was really out of the blue,” said Liguori. “I always hear about natural disasters and say I wish I could do something to help, but this time it was so easy. It was just an hour away, and it was easy to make a big difference because you didn’t have to do much to help.”
Tailback Tate Harshbarger ’14, offensive linemen Dustin Ross ’16 and Ben Killion ’16, and Sabine van der Linden ’14, a former women’s lacrosse player, joined Liguori on the trip. On Friday night, the group purchased approximately $250 worth of bottled water, nonperishable food items and flashlights using money pooled together from friends. They left for New York at approximately 7 a.m. Saturday morning in a car borrowed from a friend of Liguori.
That day’s game was the first time the team left Liguori in New Haven since his freshman year, but Harshbarger and Killion have not traveled with the team yet this season.
“Usually I’ll watch the game on TV and catch up on work on away weekends,” Harshbarger said. “This was a nice way to make my time useful for somebody other than myself.”
When they arrived in Manhattan, they found a line hundreds of people long and a squad of volunteers distributing basic necessities. The group brought their supplies over, helped the volunteers organize them and found that, beyond the delivery of goods, their services were not needed.
“There were just so many people there to help, they almost had too many people to be effective,” Killion said. “It was great to be able to see the huge amount of support.”
After dropping off the supplies, the group searched for other opportunities to help in the area surrounding the Riis Houses but did not find anybody in need of assistance. They returned to New Haven around 3 p.m. and noted that, for most of the trip, the roads were practically deserted.
Liguori said that although he had a good relationship with each of his teammates prior to the trip, he thinks the experience helped them grow closer.
“We’re so used to seeing each other in the weight room, on the field and in the meeting rooms and you get to know people in that context,” Liguori said. “But then you go to this completely foreign landscape and even though it was just one day of hanging out with them, I felt like I got to know them a lot better.”
The football program has established a precedent of giving back to the community in recent years. The team currently works with the Wounded Warriors program to help veterans prepare for college life, the Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive to register Yalies as potential donors and Bulldog Buddies, a mentoring program for local youth.
“It’s just another example of guys on the team who are really putting the community first and helping people in need,” head coach Tony Reno said. “It’s a testament to those guys and Yale students in general, who are always looking to try to help people and were proud to help with the hurricane.”
The Jacob Riis Houses, which were completed in 1949, comprise 1,191 apartment units spread across 19 buildings.