Community Engagement at UKAD


The University of Kentucky Athletic Department strives to cultivate individuals of character and leadership. Community Engagement plays a vital role in this development for our athletes, so a department-wide emphasis is placed on volunteer efforts for student-athletes, athletic faculty, and staff. UKAD partners with multiple organizations at the local, state, and national levels, including God’s Pantry, UK Children’s Hospital, Salvation Army, and local Lexington schools. Read more about how our athletes engage with these initiatives below.

God's Pantry Backpack Program

In 2010, UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart initiated an athletics department-wide community service partnership with God’s Pantry, a Lexington-based food bank. UK student-athletes, coaches, and staff volunteer their time to assemble food-filled “backpacks” and personally deliver them to local elementary schools every week. These meals are distributed to children from underprivileged families in the Lexington community, ensuring they have access to the meals they need.

Breakfast with Santa

Each December, a group of UK student-athletes attend this annual UK Children’s Hospital event, where volunteers spend their time visiting and eating breakfast with children and their families, helping Santa Clause distribute presents. Afterwards, volunteers spend time visiting with patients at the hospital whose physical conditions do not allow them to attend the breakfast.

Salvation Army

During the holiday season, student-athletes volunteer their time ringing bells for the “Red Kettle Campaign” to help raise money for the Lexington Salvation Army. UK Athletics has won the Fayette County trophy for “most time given” 7 of the last 9 years.

School Speakers

Student-athletes visit a number of local schools speaking to children on a variety of topics, including the importance of an education, good decision-making skill, and setting goals. Student-athletes also spend countless hours volunteering for after school mentor/reading programs, including the annual Fayette County Read Across America celebration.

Alumni Wildcats in the Community 

Current Wildcats aren’t the only people making a difference, though. Many former UK athletes still embody the servant-leader mentality UK Athletics helps instill in them. Read more below about alumni serving in the community.