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Four Years at the Mount

Causes Worth Supporting

September, 2013

At the Mount, students are encouraged to discover who they are and what they believe. The result is a campus filled with passionate, opinionated individuals who fervently support worthy causes. This month, we asked our Four Years at the Mount writers to tell you a little about one of the causes for which they advocate. Responses varied from personal to worldwide causes that will all benefit from the support that our writers and readers can give them.

Coltonís wish

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

When I was only four years old, my cousin was diagnosed with stage four Burkitt lymphoma. She was only nine years old at the time. I remember barely understanding the phone conversations that happened as a result. I was confused as to why we were going to Virginia so often when we normally only got to visit a few times a year. I was lost as to why my cousin didnít have any hair anymore and wasnít always home. So many things were changing and everyone in the family was acting differently. However, my cousin never lost her spirit. She was treated at Fairfax County Hospital on a clinical trial medication. She went through a lot, but she had so much support. I remember the quilt her classmates made her, the love her family gave, and the faith everyone had in her speedy recovery. She never backed down. She was always the rowdiest, loudest, and funniest of us all. Most importantly, she never let that go. Even at the age of nine, she knew she had to fight back.

She was recommended to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization whose mission is to "grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy." This incredible organization realizes that it is not only the doctors or the medical treatment that make the children feel better. Make-A-Wish takes the emotional route and makes a personís dream come true, no matter how absolutely crazy or small it might be. The donors and planners of the foundation have sent families to Hawaii, made little boys into cops and pilots, brought celebrities to meet patients, built personalized dollhouses, and sent my cousin skiing in Colorado.

A common misconception of the organization is that children have to be terminally ill, or that it is only for young children. Neither of these are true; Make-A-Wish will grant a wish to anyone between 2 Ĺ and 18 years of age, and anyone with a life-threatening condition, regardless of financial situation or any other factors. This organization changes livesóone every 38 minutes to be exact. Having their craziest wishes come true gives the patients something to look forward to, to fight for, and to hold on to during the hardest time of their lives.

I donít remember every detail of my cousinís battle; I donít remember much honestly. But I do remember the "Annaís better, letís party!" t-shirts we made because she won. She beat a cancer she was never expected to live through. Make-A-Wish gave my cousin something to hold on to. I remember hearing all about how her wish was granted. Put simply, itís amazing. From that time on I began to see and hear more about the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

In high school, I was the member of the student Senate. Each year we chose a cause to support, and my senior year we chose the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I was beyond excited when everyone voted in favor of this cause, and we were soon assigned a child in the area. His name was Colton, and we were asked to raise $4,000 to send him and his family on a vacation to Hawaii. We learned all about his story, his life-threatening illness, and his wish. We never met Colton, or even learned his last name (as is policy for Make-A-Wish), but he became important to our entire student body. Everyone joined together and did their part to fundraise so that Colton could get to visit his dream destination. I designed t-shirts that were sold to students, staff, and the communityóall proceeds benefitting Colton. We held dine-ins, a car wash, dress-down days, penny wars, and so much more. Everyone knew how important this was and the final amount raised was $4,699.98; we had exceeded our goal!

The best part was watching the entire school and community come together to make a boyís wish come true. Itís weird how certain things can bring a small town together. Things like football games, holidays, fire station barbeques, children, and sickness can all unite people. In this case, we were united by Colton. We didnít know him, he wasnít from our town, and we didnít even know his last name, but everyone knew how important this was to him. They knew this might be his last wish, and most importantly, they knew the good this would bring him. Causes like my cousinís and Coltonís bring out the best in people and demonstrate the real meaning of community.

Working alongside Make-A-Wish was one of the best experiences Iíve ever had. I felt driven to remember my cousin while raising funds for Colton, but my inspiration was even simpler than that. I didnít just think this organization, its mission, and the effects it has on the patients are incredible because it was personal; the organization really is just incredible. So incredible in fact that I believe I would have been equally as passionate in my support even if I had never heard of it before. It is an experience, really, working with them and an experience, Iím sure, being on the receiving end. Watching a community come together and being a part of something so life-changing was, in itself, life-changing for me, as well.

I support you

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

To the Musician:

Youíve finally gotten your big break! You are convinced that you are on the road to fame. That is, if anyone spots you playing once a month in the local coffee shop. Nonetheless, you go out and get new guitar strings and tune them up just right. You grab some extra picks just in case. Youíve been taking longer showers to get all of your vocal exercises in, and so far it sounds like itís paying off. Yet, you are faced with the common belief that you will never make it and that it isnít possible for you to earn a reliable wage from playing a few gigs every now and again. Instead of letting this defeat you, you use it as fuel, and it empowers you to seek and work towards your passions rather than letting them get you down. You know the odds arenít in your favor, but you are doing what you love, and it makes you happy. Come performance day, you are blowing up all the social media sites with posts and e-vites to everyone within 100 miles of the gig. After the show, you are feeling confident and even more passionate about your music. When someone gets up and walks your way, you pull out that Sharpie you had so casually slipped into your pocket earlier. When she gets closer, you are extremely excited that she has admired your work. However, when she speaks, all she does is ask for directions to the nearest tourist attraction. Well, at least all that penmanship practice will be useful for something.

To the Presenter:

I know you have that big conference at work coming up. Youíve been trying to turn a new idea into a fresh reality. Itís a concept youíve been thinking about for years. Finally, you have the courage to demonstrate how great it truly is. Come presentation day you anxiously tap your fingers on the table as your coworkers file into the room and take a seat. When your boss enters you start to question your confidence and wonder if what you have to offer is adequate. You stand and hope that your knees donít buckle. You try to take a final deep breath before clicking through the slides. Your nerves cause you to rush and make your sentences jumble. You try imagining everyone in his or her underwear but that only makes you more uncomfortable. It took you a little while, but you finally got into the groove and everything started to flow perfectly. You make it to the end, and you are more than satisfied with how things went. Yet, once you stop talking, the crickets in the room seem to be getting louder, and everyoneís eyes are fixed and have yet to shift away from you. Seconds pass like hours before someone finally clears their throat and begins to speak.

To the Prospective Student:

You are so stressed about which college is the right fit for you. The courses at one look more interesting, but the other offers your intended major. The one has a sweatshirt that looks so good on you, but the otherís mascot is way cooler. Your best friend is going to one, but you know more people going to the other. Mom claims itís entirely up to you as she sips her coffee from a mug with the college logo purposely positioned in your direction while Dad knows youíll make the right decision based on where he went. Lists of pros and cons line your notebook but always end up being even. You are so confused and lost. Donít let it worry you. You will find your place if you choose with your heart. Even though you donít want it to influence you, what your parents think does have a great impact on you, and part of you is convinced that dad wasnít joking when he said that you couldnít live in his house if you didnít attend his alma mater. Despite what you think, he actually wants you to be happy. You complete the applications for the schools your folks want you to attend and stick them in the mailbox knowing your family is satisfied. But what about your feelings? When the mailman comes the next day, make sure you run out and hand him that envelope youíve been hidingÖthe envelope with the application to the school your heart is truly set on.

To the Musician, the Presenter, the Student, and everyone in between:

The greatest cause that we can ever support is each other. It is imperative that we care about the well being of those in our local and global communities. How much better would the world be if people always had your back? If someone was there to catch you should you fall? There are times when all we need is a simple smile of reassurance, and other times when we actually need an extended hand. Sometimes all that is essential is to know that someone is there for us and that we donít have to bear the weight alone. Weight is meant to be distributed and we are made to take on the burdens of others. I encourage you to reach out with your hands and with your heart so that you may become a means of support. Let there be room on othersí shoulders for you and let your shoulders be open for others.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen

Res lifeís the life for me

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

To throw your support behind something is to throw the weight of your whole being into it. As the old adage goes, where your love is, is where youíll be, and the same holds true for the things that youíre doing. If you truly love something, then of course youíll be there, and youíll support it every single day. It seeps into what you do, and who you are.

It may seem odd, but the hard truth of the matter is that I never really had something that I truly supported. Thatís not to say that I didnít like certain things. On the contrary I REALLY liked certain things. There was nothing better than going out for a long drive with my friends in high school and getting into random adventures. I seriously enjoyed pizza, and as my steadily increasing gut can attest to, I enjoy it a little too much. But to care about something and to support something, to give it a part of yourself so that it may succeed, is a rare thingóat least for me. Then, being a member of Residence Life came into my life.

I joined the "thin blue line" of Resident Assistants (RAs) when I was a sophomore, and I quickly fell in love with the job. It was something truly amazing to not only be put in charge of enforcing policy, but to also be entrusted with the growth and development of an amazing group of young men. Within a few weeks I came to regard the 20 or so residents that lived in my hall as "my boys," and they knew it. We went to breakfast three times a week. We did homework together, played video games, went on the time-honored Mount journey that is "the Sheetz Run" together. Within a few months, we became a family. They were a pack of younger brothers to me, and they never ceased to amuse me with their antics. I was a mentor figure to them, someone they could come to for advice. Little by little, I fell in love with the job and with the role that I got to play. Little by little, it started to become something that I passionately supported. I found myself getting up every single day being excited about building something that I could leave behind, something that my residents would fondly remember long after they left my hall.

That love affair with my job that began my first year as an RA expanded this year when I took on a greater role in Res Life as an Area Coordinator. An Area Coordinator is the RA assigned to assist other RAs in their programming, to be there when they have questions about the job or a concern that they felt like they couldnít handle on their own. When I started my journey to becoming an AC, I was honestly unsure of my abilities. I had already done my fair share of leadership, but this was a step above and beyond what I had ever done before. To be a leader was one thing, but to be a mentor for an entire group of leaders was something completely different. Like the prophet Jonah, I sort of wavered awkwardly in the space of whether or not I would take the job. There were days when I would sort of sit around and wonder if I had the right stuff for the job. Then there would be mornings where I would roll out of bed, stretch my arms and declare on that day, "I GOT THIS."

In the end, it was a simple word of encouragement from one of the Professional Staff members that set me loose on the path toward being AC. I figured, why not? The worse that could happen is that I could get denied the position and start another year as an RA.

A few months later, I had the position that I was so nervous about getting in the first place, and I began a new chapter of my life. I had the chance to not only help my hall grow and change, but to also mentor an entire group of wonderful RAs who were doing the same for their residents. My Res Life family didnít change, it just grew bigger, and I got to see what it was like to help something grow from its very beginning. Thatís how I grew from not only just loving my job, to also supporting it. To being confident and comfortable enough to help the RAs and residents that I love. It is a task to which I have not stopped giving all of my effort and strength. Whenever an RA comes to me with a question about the process or a resident asks if we can hang out, I find myself mentally re-committing to my position and my department. With any luck, all of us can find something that we are so dedicated to that it becomes second nature to throw our strength behind it. May you find that task that asksónoódemands your full strength.

Until then, Iím Kyle Ott. Wonít you sit and read for a while?

Read other articles by Kyle Ott

Two birds, one stone

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

If you looked at my bedroom, you would never believe that when I was little I had trouble reading. Books are everywhere. On the bookshelf, on the nightstand, on the ground, in the closet. The written word is one of my passions. Thatís why, when I received an email from World Wide Book Drive, I knew I had to play my part.

Two years ago, my sophomore year of college, I started a Harry Potter club on campus. It was a fantasy book nerdís paradise, and like every campus club at the time, we were required to do at least one community service activity to stay in operation.

At the same time, my roommate and friend Olivia Gorman signed up for the Susan G. Komen Three-Day Walk. This event is a 60-mile walk over the course of three days that raises money for national research on breast cancer. She hit one snag in the plan, however. In order to participate, Olivia had to raise $2,300. That would put a dent in most peopleís pockets, let alone a poor college studentís. Her friends and family donated what they could to the cause, but it was a slow-going train to nowhere. Thatís when God seemed to intervene, and I received an email from World Wide Book Drive.

They were scouting schools for students or faculty interested in donating books to their cause for global literacy. At first, it sounded too good to be true, and as the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I did a little research and looked into the organization. Everything I found was positive and from what I could tell, the organization was legitimate. And the best part? For each book donated that fit their (very specific) criteria, World Wide Book Drive would in turn pay us one dollar. The stars seemed to align. What a perfect way to raise money for Olivia while donating books to those in need!

I emailed the book drive for more information. A couple weeks later, four large donation boxes were shipped to me in the mail along with a sample flyer to get me started. With some help, I placed the boxes throughout campus Ė in the dining hall, the academic buildings, and even a residence hall. I redesigned the flyer to include information about the Susan G. Komen Three-Day, so that students could know the clubís dual purpose. I made fifty copies and plastered the flyers everywhere on campus and handed them out in my classes. We waited. Slowly, books started to find their way into the boxes.

Every day I peered into the bottomless boxes, hoping to find just one more book looking up at me. Some days there were and some days there werenít. Thatís when I decided that I was not doing enough. We only had one semester to collect donations, and only a couple of books a day was not going to raise enough to send Olivia on her three-day walk.

I started advocating among the faculty. After every class, I asked my professors if they had any unwanted books. I encouraged Olivia to do the same. Professor after professor offered piles of books for donation. As a thank-you gesture, we offered to haul the books away for them. I set up appointments with them and, with friends and bags and wheeled suitcases in tow, we travelled around campus picking up books. Looking back on this, we probably could have just tossed the books into one of the donation boxes, but we instead took the initiative to haul them to our room and stack them neatly against the wall. The pile climbed to meet the windowsill, and more books continued to trickle in.

The end of the semester rolled around, and it was time to collect our lot. We started by clearing out the book infestation in our dorm room, and then we made a trip around campus to each collection box. We heaved and hauled and tossed over 1,500 books into the bed of my little blue Ford Ranger until they threatened to flow over the tailgate.

Unloading the books was much faster. Everything from chemistry textbooks to Dr. Seuss was loaded into boxes, stacked on a pallet, and wrapped in plastic, just waiting to be picked up. In the end, the book driveís criterion was too specific for it to be a very profitable endeavor. I admit it was extremely disappointing when our $25 check arrived in the mail. Worse yet was having to break the news to Olivia. Despite it all, I still consider the whole endeavor a great learning experience.

Looking back, I think perhaps my two-birds-with-one-stone method was the wrong approach to take. When I should have seen books piled in the back of my truck, I saw dollar signs. Even though I did donate the profits, I still approached the book drive as a way to gain rather than to give. I was putting my friendís needs above those of the illiterate. Both are equally important, and both benefited, but I know that my motivations were flawed. If there was one lesson I took away from this literary adventure, it was that intentions matter.

Read other articles by Nicole Jones

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