Christmas in April Delivers the Gift of Home

The auction held on Friday, March 2 to benefit the Christmas in April chapter of St. Mary’s County successfully continued an annual College tradition for the seventeenth year. Christmas in April is a nationwide organization that renovates homes for families in need, and the St. Mary’s chapter has been active  for nineteen years.

“Christmas in April” was named such because the actual home rebuilding occurs in April, whereas most of the fundraising occurs in the preceding months. This is especially true of the recent auction, which raised a grand total of $15,482 for the build which will happen on Saturday, April 28.

“Auctioneers” Assistant Vice President for Academic Services Lenny Howard and senior Josh Olexa presided over an audience consisting mostly of students and staff who gathered in Montgomery Hall 25 to place bids on items donated by various offices on campus. Such items included a Survival Pack from International Education, a Universal Parking Pass from Public Safety, and a popcorn machine from Bon Appetit. Private performances from the popular a capella groups SMCMen, TNA, Interchorus, and 4-Play (a barbershop quartet) were also available to the bidders, who were treated to SMCMen and 4-Play performances at the auction itself.

However, the most expensive bids were made on the multiple housing opportunities donated by the Office of Residence Life. One townhouse, one eight-person suite in Waring Commons, and two singles (one male and one female) were available to be bid on at the event, and they brought in a large portion of the auction’s proceeds, according to Assistant Dean of Students Kelly Schroeder.

The Coordinator of Service and Social Change Sola Ogundele said the event lived up to her expectations. “It was really unfortunate that [the auction] didn’t happen last year, but it was good to see students come out and support a deserving family,” said Ogundele. “The home [that the St. Mary’s chapter is renovating] belongs to an elderly couple who have been foster parents for forty years, which makes this effort rewarding for the faculty and staff that helped put on this auction.”

According to Schroeder, last year’s auction was sidelined because the only available date for the event coincided with the play-offs of the men’s basketball team. “We simply couldn’t compete with that,” said Schroeder, “but thankfully we had enough money in our savings to honor our commitment to the build.”

This year’s fundraising results were the greatest ever, said Schroeder, as the event usually brings in about $8,000 to $9,000. “This allows us to fund the house and supplies that our volunteers, faculty, and staff are committed to,” she added, “and we even have extra money in case the organization says we need to make the house ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compatible or provide extra assistance.”

In spite of the auction’s success, Schroeder did find one aspect of the event worrying. “I would’ve liked to see more people attend,” she said, “as this is a pretty standard traditional event attended by students, faculty, and staff. I’m concerned that participation in this community event is dwindling, but to make up for it we raised funds above our goal contribution.”

24-Hour Run Fundraiser a Success

After completing their first successful season as a varsity sport, the College Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams hosted a 24-Hour Run fundraising event alongside Southern Maryland Vacations for Vets that proved to be very succesful in raising money for both the teams and hospital-ridden war veterans.

Running in 30-minute shifts around the track 755 times for a total of 188.75 miles between 5 p.m. Apr. 9 and 5 p.m. Apr. 10, the team managed to raise $4,297, a total that includes $195 from a bake sale and $261.54 in “spare change” donations. The funds will be divided evenly between the cross-country teams and Vacations for Vets.

“The members of the Cross Country teams have earned some well deserved rest,” said Tom Fisher, Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center director and men’s and women’s cross country coach, in an email to the College community. “We look forward to possibly hosting a similar event next year.”

Flood lights were set up around the track by the Maintenance Department for night running, and Bon Appétit provided a deli platter, salads, breads and drinks for runners and volunteers on Saturday.

St. Mary’s Relay for Life Earns Thousands for Cancer Research

On Saturday, Mar. 27, the College held its very first Relay for Life Event in the recreation courts of the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center. The event raised $18,593.08 for the American Cancer Society.

“[Relay for Life] is the largest fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Usually it’s an all night event but we had a little mini event that lasted six hours,” said the Relay for Life event co-chair, first-year Elise Valkanas.

According to the American Cancer Society “Relay for Life is a life-changing event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.”

Senior Erika Kenny headed the Relay for Life event here at the College and began it here in honor of a friend who had passed away. “I wanted to have Relay for Life here in honor of my friend Nic. He died from cancer two years ago, just five days before his 21st birthday. It was so special for me to bring Relay for Life to St. Mary’s because Nic was accepted and planning to come here as a student, before he got really sick,” said Kinney.

The first St. Mary’s Relay was held indoors instead of in the traditional outdoor venue. After a lot of consideration, we decided on the six-hour mini-Relay mainly because we were in a time crunch. “ACS contacted me at the end of the fall semester, but we didn’t get started until we came back from winter break. The other committee members and I definitely had our work cut out for us with only three months of planning,” said Kinney. Not having enough time to plan seems to have definitely been a set back for the committee in organizing this event. “One of the big problems was the snow,” said online chair, sophomore Samantha White.

Part of the preparation for Relay was to find corporate sponsors, something that the girls on the committee found exceedingly hard, especially considering they had a limited amount of time to pull the event together. “[The] only main problem was getting corporate sponsors in such a short amount of time,” said Public Relations Chair, junior Alex Levy. In the end, The Relay for Life Committee was able to find corporate sponsorship from Dominos Pizza, Absolute Party Rental, Olive Garden, True Value, Wild Bird Centers of America, and Bon Appétit.
To keep participants busy and having fun, the Committee organized games and events for the Relay teams to partake in. “ [We wanted] to keep people moving for six hours in the gym and make it fun but also keep their minds on cancer,” said committee co-chair, first-year Olivia Marzano. The committee organized games, door prizes, and even a Miss Relay pageant. “The Miss Relay Pageant is where the guys dressed up as girls and in that we ended up raising $85.00,” said Levy.

Before the Relay began, there was a Luminaria Ceremony. Students, faculty, and community members were able to buy a Luminaria and have it lit at the ceremony. “This part of the ceremony is where you remember the people who’ve lost their battle with cancer or are fighting the battle against cancer,” said Luminaria Chair, first-year Kristin Hay.

Overall, the Relay brought out 22 teams and 170 participants. The top teams were Seahawks for a Cure, raising $3,584; TeamAlphaAwesomeCoolDynamiteWolfSquandron, raising $2,746; Psyched for Life, raising $2,440; Hawkettes, raising $1,871.72; LQ19, raising $1,856. The top individual earners were Chelsea McGlynn, raising $2117; Joanne Goldwater, raising $1,735; Samantha White, raising $1,032; Anina Tardif-Douglin, raising 1,000; Angie Draheim, raising $810. The committee fulfilled their goal of having sixteen teams and raising $15,000.
Next year the committee hopes to begin planning earlier and have a full 24-hour Relay. Students interested in being on the committee helping plan should contact Elise Valkanas or Olivia Marzano.

Christmas In April Holds Annual Auction

Photo by  Jackson Webb
Photo by Jackson Webb
On Saturday, Feb. 28, Christmas in April held its 16th annual live and silent auctions to raise awareness and funds for Christmas in April. Kelly Schroeder, Rotaract Club, For Goodness’ Sake, Garrett House, and the Service and Social Change program in the Office of Student Activities coordinated the event. The actual house-building will occur on Saturday, April 28, and the funds from the auctions go toward materials for the building project.

College Cross-Country Team Holds 24-hour Run for Veterans

The St. Mary’s men’s and women’s Cross Country teams are hosting a 24-hour relay run event in April to benefit hospital-ridden war veterans.

The cross country teams, completing their first season as a Division-III team for the Seahawks in November under coach and Athletics and Recreation Center (ARC) director Tom Fisher, are working alongside the Southern Maryland Vacations for Vets to host the event Apr. 9-10, 5 p.m.-5 p.m.  During the run, at least one of the 15 athletes on the team will be on the St, Mary’s track at all times, mostly in 30-60-minute intervals and alternating shifts.

The program is designed to raise funds for Vacations for Vets, an organization formed in 2007 to provide weekend retreats and small vacations for former military service members in their families, a way of breaking everyday routines in veteran’s hospitals.  Past trips have included chartered fishing tours, boat tours, kayaking, other seasonal activities, and food, lodging, and transportation are provided for the veterans and their families.

The teams are seeking donations and raising money for the event, during which the team will track its total miles accumulated over the 24-hour period.  Half of the proceeds will benefit the cross-country teams for uniforms, shoes, and other necessary equipment, while the other half will be donated to Vacations for Vets.

Anyone interested in donating funds to benefit the cross-country team or Vacations for Vets can do so by filling out a donation form, which can be found on the Cross Country page of the St. Mary’s Athletics website.

Students, Faculty Donate Time and Funds to Help Haiti Relief

The Campus Store donations box has already collected over $200 for the Haiti relief fund. (Photo by Rowan Copley)
The Campus Store donations box has already collected over $200 for the Haiti relief fund. (Photo by Rowan Copley)

Even since the nation of Haiti was decimated by a major earthquake, dedicated students and staff at St. Mary’s have been giving their time and resources to help those in need.

According to the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program, the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit on Jan. 12 just 15 miles west-southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital and largest city. Since then, over 150 thousand Haitians have been confirmed dead, and around 1.5 million remain without homes. Much of Haiti’s infrastructure has also been devastated, with food and clean water in scarce supply.

Since the earthquake, and subsequent 5.9-magnitude aftershock on Jan. 20, multiple student organizations on campus have begun mobilizing to gather and send support. According to senior Binta Diallo, Service and Social Change Programs Assistant, even before classes started for Spring 2010, she received multiple emails from students interested in whether or not something would be done to assist Haiti relief efforts. She added, “We kind of figured it was the responsibility of Service and Social Change to come up with some sort of project to help Haiti.”

Since then, the focus of their department has been on projects to directly contribute, primarily a gift certificate raffle that started Jan. 27 and will run until Feb. 10. “So many lives have been lost, and it’s an easy way to give back,” said Ashley Tomlin, Coordinator of Orientation and Service. So far, Service and Social Change has raised over $200, which will either be donated to the American Red Cross or Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti organization.

They are far from the only organization doing something for Haiti, however. Amnesty International, an organization known more for its efforts to garner awareness for ongoing genocides than its direct humanitarian aid, nevertheless held a bake sale for Haiti Jan. 27 and 28. Senior Ashleigh Dueker, president of the St. Mary’s chapter of Amnesty International (AI), said she was surprised by how receptive people were to donating, the financial situation of the average college student notwithstanding. In fact, in the two days of the sale AI raised over $70. Dueker added, “People were just giving us money. I really appreciated it. They really didn’t even care about the bake sale.”

Even campus stores such as the Campus Store, the Daily Grind, and the Green Bean have set up their own donation boxes in partnership with the SGA. Furthermore, students can donate through their One Cards, debit, or regular credit or debit cards through a purchase made at one of these locations. So far, this effort has raised $201 for the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund. Richard Wagner, director of the Campus Store, said, regarding the program, that “this has been a group effort and I think we have achieved good results.”

Although it has been almost a month since the Haiti earthquake, student efforts and support show no sign of slowing down. According to Tomlin, the Service and Social Change office is currently in the process of planning an entire benefits week to occur in late March or April, with all proceed going to Haiti relief. The Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) has also decided to donate proceeds this year from their annual Polar Bear Splash to the Haiti Green Project.

Students Organize College-sponsored Relay for Life

Cancer is a life-threatening disease that is responsible for one out of every four deaths in the United States each year. Despite an annual decrease in the cancer mortality rate, many still fall victim to it – last year alone, nearly 1,479,350 Americans were diagnosed with cancer.

This terrible disease, however,  also brings people together in the name of fighting it.  On March 27, 2010, from 6 p.m. to midnight, the College is sponsoring a Relay for Life event to help raise awareness and funds for cancer research. The event not only brings together those who have been affected by cancer, but also sparks strong hope for a cure.

The Relay for Life kick-off event, which was held on Jan. 26 at 9 p.m. in Goodpaster Hall, brought together St. Mary’s Relay for Life team captains and cancer survivors who are participating in the Relay for Life walk. During the kick-off event, two cancer patients and one cancer caretaker shared their stories to an attentive, emotional audience.

Frances Titus, a faculty member at St. Mary’s who has worked as a cancer caretaker, hopes to “find a cure…to bring awareness to the college community.” She believes that the Relay for Life event “is a good way for faculty, staff, and students to do something for a common cause.”

Senior Erika Kenny, the committee chair of the event, explained that despite St. Mary’s participation, students and faculty are not required to reach a goal by the American Cancer Society. However, those participating in the event “ultimately want to reach a goal of $15,000.” Funds are raised through donations made by individuals who donate to Relay for Life. One specific way is by donating to receive a luminary, which will displayed at the Relay for Life walk on March 27 with the names of family members or friends who have been affected by cancer. The walk is a way to remember and celebrate the fight against cancer, and luminaries can be purchased not only to remember a loved one, but also to celebrate a loved one’s successful battle.

Lauren Schlather, a sophomore at St. Mary’s and a cancer survivor, shared her story at the Relay for Life kick-off event. She said that her battle with cancer “has made [her] more thankful for everything.” Lauren is a Relay for Life team captain, and states that she hopes to “give back more because [she] realize[s] that people have been through similar or worse, and it helps to have someone to reach out to.” It is Lauren’s fifth year being a team captain. She believes that being on the Relay for Life committee is “a great way to get awareness for [cancer].” Lauren’s hope is to find a cure.

Luminaries can be purchased online at, and they can be dedicated in memory or in honor of a loved one. The suggested donation is $10.

The American Cancer Society, according to the group’s website, “is the nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.” The organization provides funding for cancer research through several community-participating events, such as the Relay for Life Event, which is the main volunteer-driven fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) is the organization that runs Relay for Life events on college campuses across the nation.