Spirit of giving

With the season of giving upon us, Villanova students and faculty members must be commended for the remarkable number of them that volunteered at this past weekend’s Special Olympics Fall Festival. The Fall Fest could not run without the close to 2,500 volunteers, many of them members of the Villanova community. It is this willingness to give of themselves that truly distinguishes Villanova students.

Not only is the quantity of volunteers laudable, but so is the quality. According to an editorial in the Delaware County Times, written by a staff member who attended the Fest, “Of all the places these special Olympians go, no group of volunteers is kinder, more encouraging or makes them feel more at home than ones at Villanova University.”

While all of this points to the undeniable eagerness of Villanova students to help out in the community, this assertion is put in doubt by the very next opportunity for students to participate: at the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (HHAW), coming literally a day after Special Olympics ended.

The HHAW on the Villanova campus is the oldest one in the nation, started by Father Ray Jackson 33 years ago. In fact, it is 16 years older than the Special Olympics Fall Festival. One would think that with all the emphasis on tradition on this campus, this would be enough to encourage mass amounts of student participation. Reducing hunger and homelessness around the world is just as important as helping out Special Olympics athletes.

There are excusable reasons why students may not take part in quite the same numbers during HHAW as in the Fall Festival. The events take place during the week, not the weekend, when many students have other commitments – clubs, school work, jobs, etc. And the timing of this year’s HHAW, the week right before Thanksgiving, proves particularly challenging since many professors are cramming in papers, tests and projects before break.

Furthermore, many of the activities of the HHAW do not have the instant reward that something like Special Olympics has, where the volunteer can see how much he/she has helped simply by the excitement on an athlete’s face. Undoubtedly, the money and awareness raised by the HHAW will help out the poor; however, with few of these people on campus, it is hard to see immediate results.

Still, when it comes to HHAW and the many initiatives that fill up the academic year, students should work to bring the same enthusiasm and spirit they summon for Special Olympics to these activities. Let’s extend our generosity beyond the wonderful athletes that visited us last weekend and to those who need our smiles – and our Saturdays – most.