Alternative Unofficial plans made by churches

By Marie Wilson

Students who wish to stay sober this Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day now have other options designed for them.

For the first time, the Religious Workers’ Association, a group of spiritual leaders from various places of worship on campus, is hosting non-alcoholic alternative events to the drinking holiday.

“We’re pretty aware that this can be a crazy time with a lot of alcohol and binge drinking,” said Keith Harris, associate pastor at McKinley Memorial Presbyterian Church. “We’re providing a collective and individual alternative for people who don’t drink that is fun for them or for people who are on the fence where if there was nothing else they would go ahead and bar-hop.”

The main event of the day will be a Guitar Hero tournament from noon to 3 p.m. on Friday at McKinley Church, Harris said.

The event will feature free food from Buffalo Wild Wings, door prizes and space for people to play board games or just hang out, he said.

“We’ll have it be casual with food, board games and video games,” said Jordan Billingsley, a member of McKinley’s campus ministry. “Because we don’t want people to think it’s at a church, so we’ll do church stuff or intervention stuff. We want to keep it low-key so people can stop in whenever.”

McKinley Church will also be holding a game show night from 6 p.m. to midnight on Friday where participants can play along with the game show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?”

Patricia Richardson, freshman in LAS, is president of Students for Positive Choices, a group that plans weekend events as an alternative to partying. She said her group often attends Illinites, watches movies, goes bowling or ice skating.

“I think probably providing good activities and more activities will increase the number of people not drinking,” Richardson said. “If there’s only Illinites, not everyone likes it. But if there’s board games going on during the day, people are likely to go to that too.”

Harris knows these and other alternative events will not end drinking on Unofficial, but he hopes it will lessen the chaos of the day.

Other campus places of worship are also joining in the effort.

Pastor Rachel Bass of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Campus Center said volunteers will be handing out sandwiches and water outside the church’s Wright Street location to help keep people safe.

Harris said a parish nurse will also be available at St. Andrew’s from 2 p.m. until 2 a.m. to provide medical assistance if necessary.

St. John’s Catholic Newman Center handed out white ribbons for students to wear as part of Alcohol Awareness Week. A handout from the church also reminded people that celebrating St. Patrick’s Day “was never meant to cause danger or reckless behavior.”

“There’s so many incidents where people get hurt and make bad decisions,” Billingsley said. “We just think it’s a poor excuse to make bad decisions if you’re just doing it because other people are doing it.”