University students, faculty, staff plan 'Big Event' on April 18 to give thanks
Virginia Tech and community participation is at an all-time high for the Big Event at Virginia Tech, making it the second largest Big Event held on college and university campuses nationwide this year.
The Big Event will take place Saturday, April 18. “With more than 5700 volunteers taking on more than 750 service projects, the impact in the community is hard to grasp,” said Big Event assistant director Dan Knisley, a senior from South Kingstown, R.I., who is majoring in public and non-profit management in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. “It's easy to get lost in the numbers, but each one of the projects has its own story and each volunteer has his own reason for participating. Whether it's replanting a garden for an elderly couple or working with a local non-profit to clean up the New River, The Big Event spans so many realms. It's service in the simplest form and the motivation is simple: ‘One Big Day. One Big Thanks.’”
Katherine Keen is a junior from Midlothian, Va., majoring in marketing in the Pamplin College of Business. She became involved in the Big Event last year through her sorority, Alpha Delta Pi. “I think it's great to have a day where everyone puts aside their own personal agendas and does something to help the community and the people who are a part of it. Whether you're picking up trash on the side of 460 or cleaning a house someone is too feeble to care for themselves, you're making a huge difference in a single day through the participation in the Big Event. The Big Event brings the entire [Virginia] Tech community together to give back to those who need help and to the beautiful area that surrounds us.”
For the second year, Delta Sigma Phi is making the Big Event a family affair. Coinciding with the fraternity’s Parents’ Weekend, parents will work alongside their students on community projects. “Our organization has always been involved with The Big Event. We have several members of the fraternity that are involved with the planning the event, and helping to give back to the Virginia Tech community has always been something that our organization has been happy to do,” said James Kendall LaRue, philanthropy chairman for Delta Sigma Phi. LaRue is a senior from Crofton, Md., majoring in finance with a minor in real estate from the Pamplin College of Business. “After all, the Blacksburg and [the New River Valley] communit[ies] have given so much to us as students during our four years, it only makes sense to show the community that we support them as much as they do us. This event allows parents to see the fraternity in a different light and gives them a chance to see the impact that our organization can have on the community. It is also a perfect way to illustrate to them how close our brotherhood truly is.”
The Big Event originated at Texas A&M University in 1982 as a gesture of thanks to the surrounding community for their support of the student population throughout the academic year. In its first year, The Big Event consisted of six students cleaning a local cemetery. Over the years The Big Event gained momentum and support and the idea spread to other campuses. The Big Event at Virginia Tech was started in 2002. During its first year, 60 jobs were completed by 475 students. The event has since seen a steady growth in both the number of jobs completed and the number of student and community volunteers.
The Big Event is completely student-run, with 13 students forming the executive committee and 126 other students volunteering their time to manage the undertaking. Last year, Big Event director Michael Jabs visited Texas A&M for The Big Event Conference to get tips on organization and managment. “It really helped us to realize the full potential of our own event,” he said. “We realized that Texas A&M had found the processes that work best for their event and utilized them to their fullest potential. We were able to take some ideas from their conference and mold them to our own event. We saw that there were some things that they did really well and there were some things that we do really well and we wanted to find that balance.” Jabs is a senior from Dumfries, Va., majoring in statistics in the College of Science. This year, Rutgers University will send student representatives to Virginia Tech’s Big Event to get ideas on how to grow their annual community service experience. Hollins University had their first Big Event this year with the help of Virginia Tech students.
“The Big Event is Virginia Tech's largest community service project. It is one day where Virginia Tech students come together to say thanks to the surrounding communities of the New River Valley for being a gracious host to us nine months out of the year and for their continuous support of the university,” said Joey O’Toole, Big Event public relations co-coordinator. O’Toole is a junior from Richmond, Va., majoring in accounting and finance in the Pamplin College of Business. Through The Big Event, the Student Government Association aims to strengthen the relationship between Virginia Tech and the communities it impacts throughout the year.
The Big Event is sponsored by Northwestern Mutual, which not only supports the Big Event with funding, it also takes part in the jobs. Big Event jobs range from painting to yard work to trash cleanup and virtually anything else that can be completed within four hours and does not involve power tools. The Big Event serves the New River Valley, including parts of Montgomery and Giles counties. Jobs in the past have been completed in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Radford, Shawsville, Pembroke, and Pearisburg.