Balloon Day encourages community, scholarship

Anna Heleniak

The Villanova community celebrated the 36th Annual “Day of Caring, Lifetime of Sharing” Balloon Day on April 21.

Instituted by Rev. Ray Jackson, O.S.A., in 1973, this Campus Ministry event raises money to create scholarships for students at Our Mother of Sorrows and St. Ignatius schools in West Philadelphia.

These two parishes partner with Villanova freshmen in the Ruibal Challenge service program throughout the year.

Balloon Day commenced at 5:30 a.m. in Connelly Center Plaza as committee members and volunteers gathered to create the infamous balloon arches, which they dispersed throughout campus.

More than 60 student organizations on campus set up booths for games, food and entertainment as the mini-carnival around the Oreo came alive.

Visiting students from the two Ruibal schools and La Salle Academy, along with physically and mentally disabled persons from Don Guanella, Melmark and Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, gathered in the early afternoon to begin the festivities.

Villanova students volunteered to facilitate booths and to serve as “huggers.” These volunteers spend the day with a group of visitors and take them around to the many carnival attractions.

Those who attended the event enjoyed Balloon Day highlights, including Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity’s dunk booth, Campus Activities Team’s barbeque, Rays of Sunshine’s spin art table and the Student Nursing Association of Pennsylvania Villanova chapter’s kid-friendly temporary tattoo parlor.

WXVU provided music all day and even instigated several impromptu dance parties.

The Villanova dance team, however, formally performed, as well as several of the on-campus a cappella groups.

Balloon Artist John Cassidy also created balloon replicas of animals and larger-than-life flowers for the participants.

Student event coordinators seniors Jackie McNamee and Gretchen Vollherbst and junior Becky Ferenchiak, along with their designated chairpersons, oversaw the event over the course of the day.

Villanova students gathered at the carnival to support the cause by donating money or eating lunch from one of the many vendors.

They also lined up outside the doors to the Dougherty West Lounge in order to pair up with elementary school students.

The turnout for the event was remarkable.

“This day is the capstone of the year for me,” McNamee said. “I have been heavily involved on the Balloon Day committee for the past four years, but this year has been especially great. I have really enjoyed seeing the community come together and appreciate all of the support from the faculty, staff and my peers. I feel so lucky to be a part of this event and the service that is provides for the Philadelphia community.”

Campus Ministry continues to expand the activities of event and hopes that Balloon Day will grow to reach more students on campus.

This year, they spread awareness about the day by adding more colorful balloon arches throughout campus and extending publicity to more university organizations.

The goal of the day was to foster community spirit while raising funds for a local charity.

The student event chairs remarked on how well their program carries out the mission of Balloon Day in everything that they do.

“The great thing about Campus Ministry is that it is more than simply an organization or university department, but it is truly a community united by the common goal of giving back to society,” Ferenchiak said.

As McNamee and Vollherbst graduate this May, the remaining committee hopes to carry on the traditions of Balloon Day and continue its great record of success in the years to come.