On April 16th, The 2016 Big Event brought KU students and the Lawrence Community together through community service. The event started with registration, breakfast and a speech delivered by KU Football Coach David Beaty. After the kickoff ceremony, students were delegated to different service sites to help community members with their needs.
One of the site managers, Bridget Meier, said she and her friend Danielle Brunin are turning a piece of land unused into a community garden and an urban farm, and they call it “Little Prairie Community Garden”. They said they would have plots for the community to rent, and donate food from the urban farm to the food banks in town. She also said mini-orchard and seeding area are for children to enjoy. She said the Big Event volunteers are a big help.
“This is such a big help,” Meier said, “This is going to make our project go so much faster… We really want this to be something special for everyone to enjoy.”
Brunin said this is her second time being involved with the Big Event.
“It was excellent,” Brunin said, “The people were so dedicated. We accomplished an incredible amount, probably more than we accomplished in the garden the rest of the year because of the amount of people, the participation. Everybody is just so enthusiastic”
Brunin said she appreciates the organization of the Big Event. Students at Brunin’s site were flattening out the plots, spreading mulch and compost, and putting up a brick courtyard. Freshmen Lynn Oyler and Justin Mills said they are excited about being able to help out the community.
“I’m from Lawrence,” Olyer said, “so I just think it’s really cool to people from the community will be able to use this garden, and I think it’s definitely a Lawrence thing to have a community garden…It’s a good, a easy way for college students to get out and serve.”
Oyler said since Lawrence is a college town, the community has to “put up with” the students constantly, so she thinks the Big Event is a good way for KU students to give back to the community. Mills said despite the dirt on his face and in his shoes, he enjoys bonding with his friends and just like Oyler said, giving back to the community.
“It’s been really good just seeing all the little kids here,” Mills said, “just building this for them… It’s good for students to get out and show that we care. This community has done a lot for us…I definitely feel thankful for this year. I just love Lawrence.”
At Christ Covenant Church, brothers from Phi Kappa Alpha, a new Fraternity, are helping convergence members to clean up and help with yard and community garden maintenance. Ed Dean, one of the members from the church, said he is glad that students can come out and help.
“It’s good to have some young folks helping out those old folks,” Dean said, “Just really appreciate their help. It’s a good experience for them and a good experience for us as well.”
Gordan Cook, one of the fraternity members, and the community just brings him in. He said he feels good giving back and expects these couple hours to go by fast.
“I’m enjoying it so far,” Cook said, “You wouldn’t think it would be fun, but it’s fun like being around your friends and brothers and stuff and just helping out the community.”
Donna Craven, Executive Director of the Big Event 2016, said that she can finally take a break. With 3,000 students sent to 325 job sites, and they received overwhelming responses from both students and job sites, she believes the event went very well.
“I love the Big Event, because it’s really all about building a bridge between KU and the Lawrence community,” Craven said, “A lot of time the students, the faculty and staff at KU live in a bubble and don’t really get a chance to interact with the community all that much, so it’s a great way to build those connections and give back.”
Craven said the community is appreciative about what students do, but at the same time surprised that students would make time and come out on a Saturday morning. It is changing their expectation and the face of KU. For students, Craven said the Big Event helps them to stretch their boundary of what they are comfortable with.
“All of our volunteers are always so willing to just jump in and follow directions,” Craven said, “That’s where it really all comes together as long as they are willing and able to learn something new.”
Last year, The Big Event was canceled due to rain. She said it was hard to rearrange an event this big in a short period of time. Seeing such a good turnout this year, she said she is proud of the hard work from all committee members and board members.
Craven is also proud of volunteers for their energy all the way through, because they are so invested in it. She also said the Big Event is expanding globally, and the Big Event at KU has the potential to make more people involve and deliver the message of building a bridge with the community among more people.
Right after this year’s Big Event, new committee is formed right after and the committee works year round to recruit, set event day, rain day, do paperwork and plan the day. Craven said her four years of experiences with the Big Event made Lawrence a home and made her grow as a person.
“It’s one of the most fulfilling things I’ve been involved with at KU,” Craven said, “Being a leader is this whole process of learning how to manage this team and that everyone has to be led in a different way…The values that the Big Event taught me, and grew in me and instilled in me is that the need for community and the need to give back.”