“The University of Kentucky Athletic Department is proud to announce its partnership with Kentucky Children’s Hospital for the next two years, decided on by SAAC,” said Glen Brown, a senior UK swimmer who is the current president of SAAC. “We decided to partner with the Children’s Hospital because of the local impact it will have on our athletes and the organization. It will be very special to see the relationships and the memories that will be made by our student-athletes and the children, families and the entire Children’s Hospital team. We hope to touch the hearts of many individuals, as I know they will have a special place in our hearts over the next two years, and more. Thank you to Kentucky Children’s Hospital for welcoming all of us with open arms.”

UK student-athletes will continue their work with numerous other charitable organizations, but this announcement will enable Wildcat student-athletes to cultivate an even deeper relationship with Kentucky Children’s Hospital. In the midst of the ongoing response to COVID-19, UK student-athletes will be participating in Zoom calls with KCH patients each Monday.

“KCH was chosen because it gives our athletes the best opportunity to make an impact on the local community,” said junior UK swimmer Lauren Denham, who will be SAAC president for the 2020-21 academic year. “The advantage to working with one organization allows our student-athletes to have a greater influence and form meaningful relationships that will continue long after the partnership ends. Because both organizations have a commitment to excellence, this shared mission will build a strong relationship between KCH and UK Athletics. Throughout the two-year partnership, SAAC will organize opportunities and events for our student-athletes to engage with the children. The first event will be personalized video chats to introduce this new partnership. This is a great way for us to connect with the children and start an exciting future together. We are looking forward to this journey that will bring joy to everyone involved.”

KCH succeeds Special Olympics Kentucky as SAAC’s Community Partner of Choice. After SOKY was announced as Community Partner of Choice in December 2018, 15 UK teams and 200 UK student-athletes engaged in organized activities with SOKY programs and activities, with 800 SOKY athletes participating.

“Two years ago, our athletics department partnered with Special Olympic Kentucky as its Community Partner of Choice,” Brown said. “It was an amazing experience for our student-athletes to join together with their athletes for sporting events, clinics, and other engagement activities. Our student-athletes formed relationships with their athletes that will last for a lifetime. We are excited to continue our relationship with them through activities, such as the annual bowling event with our student-athletes and SOKY athletes. A big thank you goes out to the entire Special Olympic Kentucky organization.”

UK Athletics and Special Olympics Kentucky held 20 events together, ranging from UK-led clinics to UK student-athletes attending SOKY competitions to SOKY athletes attending UK competitions.

“The past two years were filled with department-wide events that gave our student-athletes the chance to engage with SOKY athletes,” Denham said. “These two groups were able to come together and share a passion for sports. We are thankful for the memorable experiences provided by this partnership and SOKY will continue to be an important part of UK Athletics.”

SAAC is the student-athlete organization that represents the student-athletes at the University of Kentucky. SAAC seeks to ensure that UK Athletics provides each sport and every student-athlete with a quality environment and the essentials to be competitive as a student-athlete and a team. Each UK team is represented by at least one SAAC member. SAAC is supported by UK Athletics’ Student-Athlete Experience division.

Kentucky Children’s Hospital, part of the University of Kentucky HealthCare system, is committed to providing the best care possible, for children as well as families. With the region’s only Level I pediatric trauma center and Level IV neonatal intensive care unit, and more than 30 advanced subspecialty programs such as pediatric oncology and pediatric surgery, KCH is equipped to provide the highest level of care to young patients, close to home.

“We’re honored the UK Student Athlete Advisory Committee has chosen KCH as their designated charity,” said Kentucky Children’s Hospital Physician in Chief Scottie B. Day. “The student-athletes at UK have been incredibly supportive of KCH, bringing the spirit and excitement of UK Athletics to our young patients at times when they need it most.”