A winning day for Rays of Sunshine

Kaitlyn Coppolo

The sun shone on Saturday afternoon as Rays of Sunshine, a University community service organization, hosted its second annual Rays Day for kids whom Villanova students tutor in the Philadelphia area. Thirty volunteers and about 50 children spent the day touring the campus, eating at the Spit and watching the Villanova Wildcats beat the no-longer-undefeated James Madison Dukes.

“It was neat to show the kids a little bit of my life after they welcome me week after week into theirs,” said senior April Gonzalez, who tutors twice a week at Northern Home for Children.

Another volunteer, senior Christine Davis, added, “It was great to hang out with the boys from Northern Home outside of their own environment and to welcome them to Villanova.”

Children and staff greeted the anxious volunteers on South Campus before leaving on tours given by Blue Key Society members. The children experienced the Quad, passed Bartley and the Oreo and made their way down to the Church.

Many expressed surprise at the size of the campus and how students attend class in a building as magnificent as Bartley Hall.

“The kids were very curious to learn about the differences between their school experience and going to college,” Davis said. “They were amazed at the size of the campus, fascinated that we actually lived here and many of them even commented how they wanted to go to school here when they grew up.”

After exploring the campus, volunteers and students had lunch in the Spit.

“The kids are always so amazed at all the options of food they can choose from,” Davis said, noting that most children would love a buffet with pizza, breakfast foods, and dessert.

“The day went great, and we couldn’t have done it without the help of all the generous volunteers and staff from Villanova,” said Eric Melchior, senior events director for Rays of Sunshine.

The highlight of the day came at the Villanova Stadium. The children not only watched Villanova beat JMU, but also received autographs from the players. The Rays of Sunshine organizers gave each child a goody bag containing a Rays Day T-shirt, football program and candy. Some children won raffle prizes such as football posters, a Villanova football sweatshirt and two footballs autographed by the team.

“They were so excited to watch the game and meet the players, who were like celebrities to them,” Davis said.

After the game, the children ran to the selected area to wait for the players to exit the locker room. Some of them couldn’t last that long and ran to the locker room door to be the first ones for an autograph.

“My favorite part was the autographs because it was touching to see the players respond so positively to the kids,” Melchior said. “It’s really important for the kids to have events like this here because it is something they would otherwise not be able to experience.”

Visiting schools included Northern Home for Children, Universal, Southwest and Mount Zion.

“Rays Day was a lot of work, but Caitlin [Devlin, Events Director] and I are really pleased,” Melchior added. “Seeing their happy faces definitely made all the work worth it.”