By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – The temperature was a chilly 32 degrees when they gathered Saturday morning at Cope Stadium on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus.
Factor in the blustery north wind, and it felt even colder.
None of that mattered to the nearly 600 students who got up early on a weekend to participate in The Big Event.
“The best part about it is you’re with a lot of your friends, a lot of your brothers, so that makes it 10 times better,” UNK junior Nathan Platt said. “If I was out here by myself, it would be pretty miserable.”
Platt and 10 other members of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity battled the less-than-ideal conditions while picking up trash on property around the local landfill. The group had about 20 large, black bags filled by 11 a.m.
“One of our pillars is citizenship, so we try to give back as much as we can,” said Platt, a finance major from Omaha who serves as the fraternity’s president. “This is a great way to get everyone together and help out the community that supports us.”
Organized by UNK Student Government, The Big Event is the university’s largest single-day service project. Lopers have been participating since 2006 as a way to thank the Kearney community and promote service and unity on campus.
“Giving back to the Kearney community is incredibly important, and The Big Event allows us to help local businesses, nonprofits and individuals in various ways each year,” said UNK senior Allie Daro, a pre-medical student from David City. “I consider it such a positive characteristic of UNK that almost 600 individuals want to volunteer their Saturday morning to help others in the community.”
Daro participated in the past two Big Events, but she had a bigger role this year as secretary of community relations for UNK Student Government. It was her job to oversee the planning and execution, which included lining up around 80 worksites.
Spread out across the city, students helped build a Habitat for Humanity house, washed windows, assisted with yardwork and landscaping, planted trees and tackled numerous other tasks.
At Holy Cross Lutheran Church, members of the Exercise Science Club were outside spreading mulch while students in the Kearney Health Opportunities Program (KHOP) painted classrooms inside the building.
Congregation member Dalen Schmitz appreciated all the extra hands.
“They can help transform two entire classrooms in a morning, whereas it would take an individual a week or two weeks,” he said. “We’re really just grateful to have them here and to be able to interact with them.”
The project was extra special for UNK junior Blake Edzards of Columbus. He was participating in his third Big Event as a KHOP member and he also worships at the Kearney church.
“Volunteering can be difficult for college students, because the networking isn’t always easy and it can be hard to find somewhere you can volunteer,” Edzards said. “But The Big Event allows you to help out in an easy way. You don’t have to find the place. You just show up and you can volunteer and donate your time, which is important.”
The pre-medical student believes the large turnout each year is a direct reflection of the “loving campus” he’s part of.
“I think it really shows what the UNK community is about,” Edzards said. “It’s about giving back and it’s about showing our community love and being thankful. That’s what UNK is about.”
The Big Event is underway with over 500 Lopers ready to help our community. This is UNK’s largest single-day service project of the year.#BeBlueGoldBold #TheBigEvent #service pic.twitter.com/Twcvdc32XH
— UNK (@UNKearney) April 22, 2023