Feb. 17, 2009
Mayor Bill Ham, Jr., declared Feb. 14 as the Big Event day in Auburn and at the end of the day, big was an understatement. The project, spearheaded by Auburn University's Student Government Association, brought together teams of Auburn students to complete community service projects. The goal was to have 1,500 students complete 75 various projects in Auburn and Opelika.
Mayor Ham, Auburn cheerleaders and Tiger Paws kicked Saturday off in the AU Student Center Ballroom. Volunteers were treated to breakfast and a speech from the mayor before breaking out to work on their respective team's project.
The task at hand for members of the Auburn gymnastics team, equestrian team and Tiger Paws was to bake cookies and write letters to be sent overseas to U.S. Troops. Auburn senior gymnast A.J. Mills and Rebecca Rifkin, a junior on the equestrian team, each whipped up some tasty treats to send a sweet reminder of home to those serving our country.
"It is a big deal," Rifkin said. "I know it means a lot to people to have something that comes from home and that reminds them that everybody, no matter where they are in the United States, is thinking of them and praying for their health and well being. Even though it's a small part, I know that collectively as a whole, each person that is doing their small part will make a big impact."
For Mills, though, her contributions added a dash of personal touch.
"My dad was a Marine and he was in Desert Storm, so that's always been something close to my heart," Mills said. "I appreciate their service and everything they do. I know that every little bit that we send over there for encouragement helps."
Corey Edwards, the Student Government Association advisor, noted that there were 1,522 Auburn students that volunteered their time on Saturday for nearly 50 different projects throughout the Lee County.
Rifkin commended that the high turnout and representation from different organizations spoke highly of the Auburn student body.
"The best part was getting to work as a community," Rifkin said. "It was really nice to see all of Auburn pull together towards making the city better and trying to benefit community service as a whole. It was impressive to see a lot of the student body out participating at one time in one event."
Auburn student-athletes participate in a wide-variety of community service events during the course of the year, but working among more than 1,500 students is not the usual scenario.
"Relating to what we usually do, this was different," Mills said. "We haven't really done a lot with the rest of the student body. A lot of our community service projects mostly involve the Athletics Department, reaching out to the community on our own. The fact that we were able to get the student-athletes involved with the student body was incredible."
Mills summed up her experience saying, "Any time that we can reach out and touch someone else's life, it's encouraging to know we can have that impact."