Student athletes join in community service in celebration of MLK week

Story by BRYNNA MAXWELL

Lola Pendande has always had a fear of needles. Gritting her teeth, she closed her eyes in anticipation of the dreaded sharp pain that would inevitably come. The only reason she would ever put herself in this situation would be to help others.

The Utah women’s basketball team came together in January 2021 during Martin Luther King Jr. Week to join in acts of community service to celebrate and keep paying forward all that King did for America.

To these athletes, this week is more than just a few days of remembrance. It is a great opportunity to serve others.

Giving blood was a common theme for the team and Pendande was surrounded by teammates.

“It was a great way to bond as a team,” Pendande said. “I don’t know if I could have done it without them, but it was for a good cause.”

Lola Pendande focuses on shooting a free throw in practice. Photo by Becca Jonas for Utah Women’s Basketball.

Utah women’s basketball point guard Issy Palmer looks at MLK Week a little differently. Originally from Australia, this is only Palmer’s second year in the United States so she has a unique perspective on the service week.

“Although I am from a foreign country and have not grown up celebrating MLK Day, I understand its significance and history.” Palmer added, “By donating just one unit of blood, I could have potentially saved the lives of up to three people. This was important to me because it was a reflection of what MLK stood for.”

Members of the basketball team enjoyed the opportunity and the challenge of doing something sacrificial for others, something King was known for. Both Pendande and Palmer experienced joy in serving others through blood donation.

Student athletes are the face of their school. Eyes are on them at all times. They are representatives of their university. For the Utah women’s basketball team, using their influence to serve others shows their true character.

The women’s basketball team was only one of the sports teams at the University of Utah that participated in acts of service during MLK Week. And all those who participated found that they were able to learn and grow from the experience.

“This week was important to me,” Palmer said, “because it was a reflection of what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for, a reflection of how he was selfless and sacrificial for the greater good of his race and for the rights of all people.”

2020 opened many eyes to the racism and fear that is still alive in America. Being able to conduct service projects and lead the way with love is a powerful way to help heal our country.

“MLK means a lot to me,” Lola Pendande said. “He was such an inspirational man. This service project week was important because it means I get to give back and help others with any problems they may have, just like Martin Luther King did. “