ACU student-athletes took up a challenge from their athletic conference and packed and donated the most Operation Christmas Child boxes of any university in the Golden State Athletic Conference.

Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to people around the world, started the Operation Christmas Child initiative in 1993. By inviting churches, schools, businesses and individuals to participate, they have collected and delivered more than 115 million shoeboxes to children in need. The boxes are filled with age-specific special gifts, school supplies and hygiene items and sent to more than 100 countries, where pastors and community leaders share the Gospel.

Arizona Christian University students have participated in the past, but this year chose to take on a few extra challenges. The student body held a competition between graduating classes, with seniors beating the other three classes and freshman coming in a close second. A few ACU staff members and alumni participated as well, and together with the student participation contributed more than 300 boxes to Operation Christmas Child.

The athletic department took on the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) competition between all nine member schools in the conference. Student-athletes from nine ACU teams came together to win the challenge by providing 180 boxes, almost double the amount of the next-closest competitor and making up 30 percent of the GSAC total of 598 boxes. The Firestorm athletic teams also competed against each other and the baseball team’s winning contribution alone would have won the GSAC competition for ACU.

“I’m really proud of our student body for getting involved, especially because at the end of the semester everyone is super busy preparing for finals,” said senior Behavioral Health major, Amber Rayls, who oversaw the project. “Students typically don’t have a lot of financial resources, but our students took the time and money to pack a lot of boxes.”