Supporter Highlight: University of South Florida Athlete Alex Mendez
By Tracey Stipp, SF Ambassador – Marketing & Volunteer Relations
University of South Florida (USF) baseball player, Alex Mendez, is well known for at least two reasons: (1) his talent on the baseball field and (2) his leadership position serving as the Big East Conference liaison for the Division One Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). Alex is finishing his sophomore year as a Bio Medical Science major in the pursuit of entering medical school. Last November he served with Samaritan’s Feet (SF) at a shoe distribution with the NCAA and 25 SAAC representatives. Alex met with SF again in January of this year and was inspired by meeting Manny Ohonme, SF founder and president. As a result, Alex approached the school sponsors at USF and asked them to support SF’s shoe distribution in Tampa, FL in April. We’d like to encourage you with some of Alex’s thoughts on his involvement with Samaritan’s Feet.
What were some of the most thought provoking experiences that happened to you during your involvement with SF shoe distributions?
I was very touched and honored to be able to serve the communities for which we provided the shoe distribution. Everyone is equal and it is our duty to give back. It was an act that has shaped my life and I hope that in the future I may be able to perform another shoe drive.
Were you startled to discover nearly 300,000,000 people go without shoes daily around the world, not by choice, and nearly 1,000,000 each year die as a result of foot-borne illnesses that might be preventable by simple protection – shoes?
The moment I heard of these statistics I was blown away. It is our duty to help those without our resources. No individual in our world deserves to die of a foot-borne illness when all they need is a shoe to prevent that. We are blessed to have shoes at our disposal so its our responsibility to share the feelings of having shoes.
What impact does exposure to those facts have on you as an aspiring medical school student?
This exposure has a profound impact on my aspirations of attending medical school. As a doctor, your mission is to serve. I feel that Samaritan’s Feet has given me the foundation and confidence to serve others. I have truly been touched and this experience has given me extra motivation to be able and have a profound impact in the medical field. Being exposed to these incredible statistics has given me new motives for becoming a doctor and being an advocate for great health.
The mission statement of the NCAA SAAC is to enhance the student athlete experience by promoting opportunity, by protecting student athlete welfare and by fostering a positive student athlete image. Do you think the SAAC goals correlate and can coexist with the vision and purpose of SF to share hope with children in need? If yes, then how can that happen?
I strongly believe that the SAAC’s mission statement correlate with the vision of Samaritan’s Feet. Personally, the experience we had in Tampa was extraordinary. Many small children were so thrilled to have new shoes and interact with us which was very humbling. I feel it is our duty to serve and with the support of a one hundred thousand plus student-athletes, awareness can be raised to make a change. Change takes effort, and with the support of so many willing student-athletes, anything is possible.
To challenge you to make a difference in your community, or even around the world, we leave you with this quote from Alex. “In the society we live in, putting on a pair of shoes is like breathing. We do not even think about it and if there is any thinking, it is consumed with which pair of shoes I should wear today. However, for those who are not as fortunate as us, they do not have the fundamental necessity to protect their feet from diseases, cuts and sores, just to name a few. According to the 2010 Poverty and Median Income Estimates, the Poverty Percentage (all ages) is 16.7 in Hillsborough County, Tampa, FL. To me, that is one too many, and I feel there is so much more we can do.”
Alex, we hope to hear more about your future involvement with the work of Samaritan’s Feet. Thank you for sharing your story with us!