When we established the SPRTER College Impact Awards (formerly the Athlete CRUSH College Impact Awards) last year, we set out on a mission to recognize and support some of the most selfless student-athletes from across the nation. Last year, the awards were such a success that we had to do it again this year. While ALL of the submissions were awesome, there was one person’s charitable tenacity that was unmatched.
The story of Olivia Gray, the 2019 Catalyst Award winner, is one where others always come first. Olivia’s passion to aid those in need makes her not only an incredible athlete, but also a remarkable person as well.
We had the chance to speak with Olivia and ask about her passion for helping others:
Hi Olivia! Congratulations on winning this year’s award. Could you please tell us a little bit about your upbringing and how this shaped who you are today?
I was born and raised in a small city 40 miles south of Pittsburgh called, Washington, Pennsylvania. I was blessed to grow up surrounded by an amazing support system, who encouraged me to be involved in many different things/activities. I played soccer and flag football growing up and loved to draw and make crafts. I was the cadet Command Sergeant Major of my high school’s JROTC program, where I gained valuable leadership skills and a love for many different types of people. I started playing softball when I was six years old, after my parents basically forced me into a softball uniform because I was a pretty stubborn kid – and the rest was history. My dad (who is my biggest fan) coached me from that day forward, until I started at the University of Pittsburgh (honestly, he even still coached me from the sidelines, then). We both fell in love with the sport together, chased our dreams together, and eventually were blessed enough to live out those dreams at the University of Pittsburgh. My incredible family and upbringing really laid the foundation for me as a person, and I could not be more thankful for the opportunities I was given.
It’s clear you have a passion for helping others – could you tell us about the charity projects you have been involved with?
Throughout my time in college, I have been blessed to be apart of many organizations and projects that have really made an impact on me as a person. Since freshman year, I was involved with the University of Pittsburgh’s Special Olympics Young Athletes program, which allows young children with special needs the opportunity to participate in sport. In addition, I was chosen as one of Pitt’s representatives to take part in the Coach For College program. The program is a service program that gives collegiate athletes the opportunity to utilize sports to teach academics and life skills to underprivileged teens in rural Vietnam for three weeks. As a senior, I volunteered with Pitt’s CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach) organization, where a group of athletes went to St. Thomas to aid in hurricane relief and minister to young children. In addition, I also led a charity movement to raise money, through the sale of custom wristbands, for the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA in November 2018. $3.300 was raised in response to a devastating ordeal that shook the city of Pittsburgh. I was also an advocate for Team IMPACT – a nonprofit organization that links up children with serious or chronic illnesses with local sports teams. With this, Pitt’s softball team was blessed with an angel of a teammate – Rylee DiTullio. I have also volunteered with the Miracle League of the South Hills, which gives people with special needs the opportunity to play baseball. I also have volunteered as a Senior Support and No One Dies Alone volunteer at UPMC. At UPMC, I helped aide in the support of senior citizens in the hospital by assisting in reading, playing games with them, and talking. As a NODA volunteer, I was a compassionate companion for dying patients in their last moments of life through comfort, presence, and spiritual support. Last but certainly not least, I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer with the MIVO Foundation – a nonprofit organization that provides free medical care to a poverty-stricken Haitian community. This organization also is founded on spreading the love of Jesus through their outreach. I was a member of a medical team that spent seven days in Haiti providing hands-on patient care to over 450 different patients, and because of this, MIVO is the organization that I have chosen to donate $531 to.
What is it specifically that gives you your incredible drive to help others?
My family and my faith are what drew me to helping others. Since I was young, I have been spiritually led through my incredible support system. I learned rather quickly the impact one can have on others when you actively utilize the platform you have. God continues to bless me with incredible opportunities to shine His light in many different aspects of my life, and I just feel overwhelmed with the calling He has put on my life. It is hard to put into words what drew me to helping others, but ultimately, it is love.
You’ve already got such a great story – what are you hoping to achieve in the future and what would you like to be remembered as?
I am currently in graduate school at West Liberty University, pursuing a master’s degree in Physician Assistant studies. I will graduate from West Liberty University in 2021 and serve as a certified physician assistant in the health care field. Even though a physician assistant is what I am to become, I hope to achieve something deeper than that. I want to be able to continue to serve impoverished communities through medicine, but most importantly, serve a God who has blessed me with such amazing opportunities.
Unbelievable work, Olivia! Your willingness to help others is something remarkable and we can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than you.
Olivia wants her $531 winning donation to go to the MIVO Foundation, a non-profit organization bringing orthopedic care to the underprivileged in Haiti in the name of Jesus. If you want to contribute to Olivia’s and our efforts in supporting the MIVO Foundation, please click the link above.
Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you our 2019 SPRTER College Impact Catalyst Award Winner, Olivia Gray!
Make sure to follow her on SPRTER, Instagram, and Twitter to follow her future endeavors!
SPRTER: Olivia Gray