CLEMSON, SC - When he got into the office Wednesday morning, Brad Brownell had an e-mail in his inbox from IPTAY donor Jeff Winchester about a phone call he received from one of his players the night before.
"I just wanted to pass along that I had a wonderful call from Josh Smith this evening thanking me for my IPTAY support," Winchester wrote to the head men's basketball coach. "It was a pleasure to hear his words and gratitude for IPTAY as I know the reward is lifelong and not merely a basketball scholarship."
Smith's call was part of a student-athlete thank-a-thon, which gave members of the school's varsity athletic teams an opportunity to reach out to IPTAY donors and express their gratitude for everything their donations provided.
After the men's basketball squad took its turn Tuesday, Clemson football players - including starters Grady Jarrett, Bradley Pinion, Darius Robinson, Tyler Shatley and Robert Smith - manned the phones Wednesday night to reach out to donors.
"This event is important because we need to let the donors know we're appreciative of what they do," senior offensive lineman Shatley said. "Without all their donations, none of what we do would be possible. We wouldn't have the facilities that we have, and it just goes to show what a great fan base we have."
Shatley is part of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, whose members helped to organize their respective teams and get their teammates involved in the event.
At a SAAC meeting in November, a sign-up sheet was passed around asking teams to volunteer to man the phones for an hour apiece for one of the six time slots for the thank-a-thon.
Assistant Director of Student-Athlete Development Kyra Lobbins, the faculty advisor for SAAC, said the student-athletes were eager to share their gratitude with donors.
"Without their donations and without their giving to IPTAY, the student-athletes wouldn't be here and wouldn't be able to be Clemson student-athletes," Lobbins said. "So they just wanted to do something for the holidays and wish them happy holidays, as well as thank them for everything they've done."
Assistant Director of IPTAY Julia Stump said it was impressive to see how willing the student-athletes were to participate in the event.
"We think it's a great way for them to connect with our donor base, and we're just really thankful they're willing to give time to thank the people that make this experience possible for them," Stump said. "It's really gratifying to see that they grasp the big IPTAY picture, and it's a good educational opportunity for us, too, to explain what benefits they're getting and who's providing them.
"Talking to somebody over the phone or even leaving a message just drives the point home that there are people who are providing this experience for them who want to see them succeed."
As the phone calls were being made, redshirt freshman linebacker Quintin Hall said most of the donors he spoke with were excited when they answered the phone and realized a Clemson athlete was on the other end.
"Some of them were taken aback at first, a little surprised, but they were definitely excited to get the phone call and really thankful that we were having a conversation with them," he said.
Hall said he believed the event was important because it allowed him and the rest of the student-athletes to reach out to the donors who provided many of the facilities and services that allowed them to reach their potential on the field and off it.
"On our team, I know we are made aware of the presence of IPTAY and what their donations do as far as Vickery Hall because it helps us academically with tutors and things like that," Hall said. "It definitely means a lot to me just to get a chance to call the people who are donating and say thank you - because it means a lot to us.
"It's important because we're able to give a little something back to the people who are giving a lot to us."