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This past Saturday thousands of James Madison University students came together to be outside and hang out with friends with the intent to make a positive impact on the community. Through their participation in the Big Event and Madipalooza, students demonstrated the true spirit of JMU.
The Big Event Cori Kendrick and Andy Eblin dedicated their senior year to designing a day of community service for students. Kendrick became involved through her work as the Student Government Association's community affairs chair. Eblin founded a club, Madison Involved, and the two set a goal of signing up 500 students for the Big Event, a day of service in the Harrisonburg community, that took place April 9.
"We want to show that we were thankful to the Harrisonburg community for hosting us all year round," said Kendrick. "We want to show there's another side to JMU and to show our JMU spirit."
Saturday morning, in the damp and cold, 924 students showed up on the Quad to pick up their site assignment, volunteer T-shirt and bag lunch before heading out to do good work. "The response from students has been overwhelming, but in a good way," said Eblin.
"I started this with the intent to work on student-citizen relations in Harrisonburg. I want to show the city that there is a relatively large portion of the student body that is interested in being a positive force in the community."
Stone Spring Elementary School, Port Republic Road clean up, Harrisonburg Department of Public Transportation, the United Way diaper drive and the annual Black's Run clean up were just some of the locations where JMU students volunteered.
The Rev. Jim Curran of Catholic Campus Ministry was thrilled at the work members of JMU's Snowboarding Club were able to accomplish. He was planning on doing yard work and small construction jobs around the CCM house throughout April but said the JMU students did so much work it was all completed in one day.
On a personal level, Kendrick said she has learned much about the Harrisonburg community through helping to organize the Big Event. "I can't wait to see what kind of impact we can make," said Kendrick.
Madipalooza While students were spread out around the community, the east side of campus was being transformed to host an outdoor "Festival at the Festival" called Madipalooza. Less than ideal weather conditions did not stop students from coming out to enjoy great music, free food, huge inflatable games and food-eating contests.
Madipalooza co-chairs Carrie Martin, University Program Board coordinator, and Steve Bobbitt, University Recreation's associate director for programming, estimate 6,000 students enjoyed the event that ran from 1 to 7 p.m. Headlining acts Eric Hutchinson and The Movement drew large crowds of students who sang along and danced in front of the main stage. Lines formed at the inflatable games as singer-songwriter Hutchinson asked the crowd to raise their hands if they had tried the "wrecking-ball" inflatable game.
Sophomore Evan Goodrich volunteered with the Big Event all morning cleaning up Dry River Road near Dayton, Va., then headed to the Festival Conference and Student Center Lawn to enjoy Madipalooza. She described the event as fun and a great way to create JMU spirit.
"It's great to give the students an alternative for something to do on the weekends," said Goodrich. "It's a really great way to bring the campus together today."
Keala Mason, a graduate student who worked on the planning committee was really happy with the way the event turned out. "There was a lot of student involvement," said Mason. "A lot of students banded together to make this event happen for JMU students."
Starting a Tradition
Organizers for both the Big Event and Madipalooza hope this is just the beginning.
Eblin, who doubled his expectations for student involvement in the Big Event this year, can only see it growing bigger each year. Kendrick echoes this saying she hopes it expands every year to reach huge numbers of students working in the community.
"It was great to see students having fun in a positive environment, said Bobbitt. "We’re hoping this will be the start of a new JMU spring tradition."