Students and Community Celebrate St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service in the Greater Philadelphia Area



Matt Marhefka Staff Writer

This past Saturday, over 5,000 members of the Villanova community participated in the St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service, a schoolwide event that serves the needs of local organizations and programs. 

The day is attributed to St. Thomas, an advocate for the marginalized of society. As Villanova’s patron saint, the Augustinian bishop reminds the community of its integral value of service. His influence as the patron saint of Villanova led University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D. to begin the tradition 14 years ago. 

This year, students again participated in a variety of ways, both on and off campus. Volunteers went into the greater Philadelphia area to rehabilitate schools and parishes, help restore gardens and plant new trees. Others cheered for 5K fundraisers and helped clean sidewalks. Out of the 140 sites attended this year, multiple have returned from years past, including original organizations that have partnered with Day of Service all 14 years.

The attendance of students, faculty and staff toppled last year’s record. 4,500 people partook, an increase from last year’s 4,000. Every year, Day of Service has seen an increase in involvement, including from alumni. Out of 35 alumni chapters across the nation, 32 participated in the event at their respective locations.

Kate McMahon, a senior, participated on one of the three sites that remained on campus.

“At Villanova, we talk a lot about community and Augustinian values, but Day of Service is a chance to put all that ‘talk’ into action,” she said. “This year I had the opportunity to bring my new students [from freshman orientation] to the Special Olympics Unified Event held on campus.” At the Special Olympics Unified Event, teams of University students and Special Olympics athletes joined together to cheer and compete in a basketball tournament. “When I was a freshman, my counselor brought us to the first ever Unified Sporting event held on campus,” McMahon said. “I loved the electric enthusiasm and genuine joy that existed that day. It is very full circle to be able to show my new students an environment like that just four years later!”

Collin Brunnock, the student chairperson of Day of Service, had a big role in organizing the event. Weekly meetings for his committee of student and faculty members culminated on Saturday. “We couldn’t be happier with the work our team has put into the 2019 Day of Service celebration,” Brunnock said. “Every year, we have the privilege to watch thousands of Villanovans, both on campus and all around the country, come together to serve the greater community. It is truly a pleasure to watch so many of us make an impact and ignite change.”

The day of, Brunnock and his team arrived on campus at 5 a.m. to await the arrival of 80 school buses and 75 vans. His team facilitated the mass exodus of all volunteers to their appropriate locations, all while insuring lunches and supplies were delivered. 

“Our team worked for an entire year to put together what was an extremely smooth-sailing Day of Service,” he said. “Thanks to our leadership team consisting of Madi Wahlgren, Colleen Sharp, Casey O’Donnell, Gianna Dolan, Ale Raganelli and Kevin Whiteman, our 35-person team was on top of their specific job all throughout the summer and weeks leading up to the celebration.” His passion for service and community dispersed a fortuitous effort among everyone who volunteered for this year’s event.