T-Bird football players help Safewalk get more students home safe

Starting this week, Thunderbird football players will be joining Safewalk teams to walk people home on busy nights. With these additional people, Safewalk will be able to send out three teams on these nights, when there would have otherwise been two.

“I’m really excited about this partnership,” said AMS student services manager Hussam Zbeeb, who had a hand in planning the collaboration. “I think that it really brings Safewalk back to what it’s here to do.”

Blake Nill, head coach of ’Birds football, had the idea after the players volunteered at last year’s Block Party, walking around the venue and handing out waters. 

“It’s about the long-term process of getting football — not just football, but athletics as well — more integrated into campus life,” said Nill.

This idea led to coordination over the entire summer between Nill, Elizabeth Riegert of Safewalk, and Zbeeb. Tremont Levy, a defensive lineman on the team, is acting as the direct liaison between Safewalk and the players, making sure that they fill the available slots of time.

“It’s a huge deal. Essentially, the football program here at UBC, we’ve been performing well but we also want to be more known around campus for the right reasons,” said Levy.

Two to three nights a week — likely Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, when Safewalk often sees over a hundred walks on each of those nights during the school year — two football volunteers will be sent to help out. 

“Whenever a football player will be volunteering, they will be paired with a Safewalk volunteer that night to ensure that they’re comfortable and to ensure also that we have co-ed teams. We definitely strive to have co-ed teams as much as possible,” said Zbeeb.

While Safewalk already has two driving teams out every night, the football players will allow them to add an additional walking team on the selected nights. Safewalk teams operate in pairs. The new volunteers will change the arrangement so that there will be one driving team with both volunteers from Safewalk, another driving team will be staffed with a Safewalk pilot and a football player co-pilot, and the walking team will also have one Safewalk team member and one football player.

After receiving training near the end of summer, some members of the football team were so eager to get started that they were already walking people home last week — a week earlier than planned.

“We actually got a call last Friday from their football team saying, ‘hey, a few of our guys are really stoked to get this started sooner rather than later. Is it okay if they start right away?’ And we were like, ‘yes, go for it!’” said Zbeeb.

While Zbeeb calls this stage of the initiative the “pilot phase,” he hopes that this time will transition seamlessly into a partnership that will continue throughout the entire year and eventually expand to other athletics teams as well.

“I believe that bringing [Safewalk] in with the football team is a good idea for them and for us,” said Levy. “It’s a mutual partnership.”

“I know that if they would like to continue and everything on our end works out, we would love to continue this for as long as possible and actually invite other athletics teams to do so as well,” explained Zbeeb. “They were the first team to approach us, but we’re also hoping to get some women’s teams on there as well.”