The Big Event is a big success at SIU


Tyler Chapin, a freshman from Washington, D.C. studying aviation, and Jena Tressler, a senior from Chester studying physical therapist assistant, clear debris Saturday, April 1, 2017, at Touch of Nature Environmental Center in Makanda. Chapin and Tressler volunteered at Touch as part of The Big Event — a day of service in which hundreds of SIU students participated. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Diamond Jones

SIU students, administrators and Carbondale residents started their day off early Saturday morning for SIUC’s first participation in The Big Event.

The event, which originated at Texas A&M University and was introduced to the university by interim University College Dean Laurie Bell, is the largest, one-day, student-run project in the nation. Students, university administrators and community residents across the country came together  to volunteer as a way to thank their respective higher education institutions.

The overarching goal is to let our neighbors in the community know how much we appreciate their support of SIU,” said Thomas Woolf, Associate Director of University Communications and Marketing.


In 2015, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching awarded SIU its prestigious Community Engagement Classification in recognition of the university’s commitment to service and outreach.

Woolf, one of the main coordinators of the event, said accomplishments such as this are what makes SIU proud to be a part of service days like The Big Event.

Around 1,200 students dedicated the day to volunteer work for more than a dozen organizations and projects on and off campus. One project in particular, “Mats for the Homeless,” at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, aimed to create comfort for those less fortunate.

“I think being a part of this is important because we focus on doing a lot of service work in the school, rather than within our community,” said Jada Kelly, a sophomore studying political science and a member of the Black Togetherness Organization.

Kelly and 20 or so participants lent their helping hands for three hours Saturday to create sleeping mats for local homeless people with plastic bags, scissors and crochet needles.

Other morning projects included beautifying the downtown area of Carbondale, an all-day America Red Cross blood drive, food pantry and school supply donations and distributions, environmental improvement with Green Earth Inc., a cleanup of the Boys & Girls Club, an Autism Awareness kick-off and an eight-mile cleanup at Touch of Nature.


Afternoon activities began at 1 p.m. as volunteers made their way to the Murphysboro Humane Society to do animal care and cleaning of the facility, while others gradually moved into the Student Center for more creative handy work.

“We are so fortunate to be citizens of this country and locally the community offers resources and so much support to us,” said Mythili Rundblad, coordinator of the SIUC Center for Service Learning and Volunteerism.

Rundblad, who supervised two projects — making appreciation cards for veterans and providing lunch sacks for firefighters — said she wanted to offer an alternative for those uninterested in outdoor activities. She said in previous years she would put together a smaller service day that attracted 200 to 300 students.

She said she hopes The Big Event allows students to see what different organizations do and the services they offer in order to steer the volunteers’ enthusiasm in the same direction.

Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell had similar expectations for The Big Event. By noon, he said he visited three or four different sites throughout the day and had experienced a lot of students volunteering through acts of kindness

He added that the event is something that will definitely continue at SIUC.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with our students; this is a true feel-good moment,” Colwell said. “This is what defines a Saluki, and we’re all beaming with pride.”

Colwell said he was asked for his permission to start community service initiative at SIUC 2 ½ years ago. Once he agreed, Bell, Nick Weshinskey, Cordy Love and other sub-committees got involved to make the event possible.

“I think it’s just a part of human nature to want to help others,” Colwell said. “All of what is happening today is helping in some larger way.”

Campus reporter Diamond Jones can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_dimewrites.

To stay up to date with all your SIU news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.