Don’t just donate, participate

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By Kaanan Raja

Every April during my four years in high school, the faculty members and students from every grade gathered together in our school’s gymnasium in support of a nationally known foundation, St. Baldrick’s.

During this event, members of my community would get their heads shaved and stood bald proudly beside kids with cancer in order to show support. During the months leading up to the event and during the event itself, the “shavees” also raised funds for life-saving childhood cancer research.

In the midst of speeches and shaving, the gymnasium roared with enthusiasm for our friends, teachers and family members who were preparing to go bald. It was here that I witnessed first-hand a type of solidarity from the shavees that changed the way I viewed charity.

St. Baldrick’s took something that is incredibly personal, such as hair, and rendered it unimportant in order to show support for cancer patients. This type of sacrifice went above and beyond donating money and instead, displayed a new level of empathy.

To me, events such as St. Baldrick’s illustrate how important it is to show support, not just through donating money, but by taking extra steps of giving.

On April 12, the University will be hosting its very own St. Baldrick’s event where students, faculty members and residents of the Champaign-Urbana area will be shaving their heads for this cause.

Sheel Vasavada, freshman in Division of General Studies and participant in this April’s St. Baldrick’s event, found that her passion for the organization couldn’t be satisfied by only donating money.

“I chose to shave my head because not only do childhood cancer incidents really hit home in my family, but I also feel that simply donating to the organization would not do my feelings toward the cause justice.”

This empathy that Vasavada displays is what distinguishes charity events from other events that sometimes flood our campus.

While there are plenty of registered student organization fundraisers and Greek events in which you only have to drop spare change to give to a charity, I think true volunteerism is displaying empathy through active participation.

While some may regard shaving their heads as an option not viable to them, St. Baldrick’s is only one way this campus’ students can rally behind showing true charity.

One Winter Night is an annual fundraiser in Champaign that last took place on Feb. 6, where people spent the night outside to raise awareness and help the homeless. Not only did this event raise $100,000 via community members, but it also provides a night in which citizens of Champaign-Urbana can empathize with those less fortunate than us who we pass by on a daily basis.

Even our campus’ RSO Habitat for Humanity can be another option to display support and active participation.

Habitat for Humanity participants build and rehabilitate homes of inhabitants of Champaign-Urbana so that they are affordable for low-income families of the area. The students not only aid in the RSO’s fundraising events held throughout the year, but they also actively construct and improve homes for those that cannot afford to do so.

By putting in physical labor rather than simply donating money, these students can show how much they are truly passionate about the cause they choose to support.

As college students, it’s often hard to take time out of our busy schedules to actively participate. We often prefer to give the very little cash we carry toward the booths and small fundraisers that we sometimes see standing in front of the Union.

While I encourage my fellow peers to donate to such fundraisers if they can do so, it’s also important to not think of this as our only means of contributing to society. Money can be a way of contributing to a cause, but it shouldn’t be the only way.

Regardless of what cause you choose to participate in, do so with a full heart. After all, we won’t be able to cause change in the world with apathy — it’s passion and devotion to causes we care about that will end up doing so.

Kaanan is a freshman in LAS.

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