ATLANTA — While most Georgia State students were resting and relaxing over the recent holiday break, Panther softball first baseman Shannyn Palazzo was traveling hundreds of miles on a multi-state community service road trip.
The sophomore traveled through eight states, including Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Illinois, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, stopping to do acts of service along the way.
Palazzo won the Panther Community Service Award last year for having the most community service hours amongst all GSU female student-athletes.
While journeying across the country, Palazzo kept a journal of her activities. She was kind enough to share some excerpts from it, which can be found below.
December 8, 2012 — Atlanta, Ga.
This morning while talking to my family friend, Charlie, I realized that I had no more commitments for the month of December. Charlie is on his journey of “48 States in 48 Weeks,” a trip where he travels across the U.S. doing acts of community service. No one could ever understand how much community service means to me; how much it truly warms my heart. I do community service because I want to. I do it out of the kindness of my heart — not for any sort of praise or recognition. Traveling to help others is right up my alley. I love roadtrips and what better roadtrip can I make than for such a cause? Therefore, upon realizing that I had a month to myself, I decided to do something crazy, something adventurous, something completely spontaneous. I called my parents right away and told them of my plans to travel and provide services to those in need. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the response I had hoped for. Whether it was the death of my grandfather the day before or the fact that they had no idea where I was going, neither of my parents approved of my trip. Regardless, it was how I wanted to spend my Christmas break.
December 9, 2012
I let my parents digest the idea while I went to community service with the Georgia State softball team this morning. After the hard work, I rushed home to solidify my plans. I spoke with my mom again. I made sure she knew that I didn’t want to disrespect her wishes in any way, but this was something I wanted to do. It was hardest on her since she wanted to keep her family close after her dad’s death. But it was crazy how perfectly timed the opportunity was. I went online, found a one way ticket to Dallas, Texas, for $200 and clicked “Book It.” I used the only money I’ve ever earned in my life from yard work this summer. One of my friends, Scott, talked to me about how he could never do what I was doing, since that was a lot of money to spend just for a ticket. It’s weird because I’m probably one of the most frugal people you would meet. I am really good at saving money and don’t like to spend any on myself. I guess it didn’t feel like I was spending money when I knew I was spending it to help others. For that, it would’ve been worth it to me no matter what the price. I texted Charlie and told him that it was official; I would be joining him on his journey. I asked him to pick me up from the airport in Dallas. With that, it was a done deal.
December 16, 2012 — Lufkin, Texas
This morning, we finally got the volunteer work we had been looking for. A local animal hospital needed some help with a variety of jobs. At first we took two big dogs, Chelsea and Buster, for a walk. From the start, I knew this was my favorite part — I love big dogs. Next, I played with some smaller dogs. There had to have been at least ten of them all fighting for attention. They were so playful and jumpy it wasn’t funny. They took ‘dogpile’ literally and all jumped on top of me right when I entered their pen. They would bite my nose and hair, but I kept playing with the little pups. Our final act was the cats. There was well over ten cats, plus three kittens. They were all very playful — rolling around, wrestling each other, chasing after balls, and jumping from crate to crate. I remember petting a beautiful cat that looked like she had a mane. She reminded me of a Goddess, so I called her Aphrodite in my head. I pet the different cats as they walked by until I felt a tap on my head. Lil Bit, as the worker called her, was pressing her little paw on my head, testing the waters. Finally, she climbed on my head, down my shoulder and plopped right on my lap. I pet her until a big white cat walked over. Before I could even reach my hand out to pet him, too, Lil Bit hissed and scratched him in the face. She claimed her territory with that blow. With that, she decided to snuggle her way back in my big jacket. She even tried to work her way up my sleeve until she got nestled in under my jacket. The worker came back in and was surprised to see me petting her. Apparently, Lil Bit didn’t normally go near people, so the bond I had with her made me feel even more special. After the cats, our work at the shelter was sadly done. I’d call it successful just because I made it out without taking one home.
December 17-18, 2012 — Galveston, Texas
When we got to Galveston, it was very cloudy out, but the drive in was beautiful. There were palm trees everywhere and seeing the ocean for the first time there was magnificent. We made it to the state park where we would be volunteering and took lots of cool pictures at the sign. After talking to the front office, it was nighttime, so we had to wait until the next morning to start our service. After watching the amazing sunrise on the beach and eating breakfast, Charlie and I headed out to the beach to pick up trash. We split up and picked up everything from shoes to glowsticks to cigarettes. It was a nice few hours where literally nothing was on my mind. After spending my time peacefully helping out, it left me thinking what more I could do to always be helping like I had. I wish I could do it everyday, especially seeing the effect it had on the thankful people we helped.
December 19, 2012 — New Orleans, Louisiana
We headed into the city this morning to work in the soup kitchen. It actually turned into a different task since they needed help outside of the soup kitchen. Instead, our job was to tend to the church’s garden, which had been covered in trash from bars and belongings of the homeless. The church ended up locking the garden up to keep out the homeless. I had to hop the fence to get in. I picked up every piece of trash on the inside while Charlie cleared the front.
December 20, 2012 — Memphis, Tennessee
In the city, we found another soup kitchen that needed our help. It was a Boys’ Center that provided many services to the less fortunate. We got there early and attended a Bible Service with those in need of a helping hand. Then, we walked around serving them a heaping plate full of pizza, ham, spaghetti, carrots, green beans, bread, dessert, and glasses of water. We probably served around a hundred people in need. After lunch, we stayed around and helped with the cleanup process. We had to wash off all the tables, break them down and stack up all the chairs. I left there very happy with my work. Although I wasn’t ready to head home for Christmas yet, I was happy I got to experience something I love to do at such an extent where the only goal every single day was finding a way to help people.
January 15, 2013 — Atlanta, Ga.
It was hard to understand that I had to come back to reality. I wanted to be able to travel the U.S. to help people everyday. I thought about any possible way I could have enough money to get by so I could volunteer like that all the time. Although I don’t have it all figured out, I plan to graduate from Georgia State with a business degree and start some sort of organization to help the less fortunate. This experience made me realize I would love to help people every day of my life; it’s something I truly love. It also opened my eyes to a lot of the smaller things in life. How grateful small businesses were for my help showed that you don’t need to be an NFL player or absolute genius to make a difference in someone’s life. It makes you appreciate what you have so much more — whether it’s a shower, a bed, clothes or food. I learned this first hand since I went day to day not knowing if I would get a shower or a bed. I wish my trip didn’t have to end. Even though it did, that doesn’t mean I will stop living my life with integrity. Being altruistic is to be selfless and I strive to do so everyday. More importantly, I hope I can make an impact on others to do the same.