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A 'day' to remember

What do 1,400 doughnuts, 10,000 pounds of apples, 800 McDonald's hamburgers, 10 large Domino's pizzas, a thousand Wal-Mart dollars, 500 Christmas cards, hundreds of better-off children, clean communities, innumerable cans of food and thousands of Wahoo volunteers add up to? The most expansive and organized University Make A Difference Day yet.

National Make A Difference Day, Oct. 23, is an annual celebration of neighbors helping neighbors created by USA Weekend magazine and supported in conjunction with the Points of Light Foundation.

Fourth-year College student Frank Griffiths piloted the project in Charlottesville last year and continued to plan the event this year, incorporating University, community, elementary, junior high and high school volunteers to accomplish an even larger service charity drive.

Griffiths said although the National Day was Oct. 23, he wanted to expand it to a week-long event in order to accomplish the larger purpose of making a difference.

"We want to just get this done," he said. "All USA Weekend asks [is] people to give an hour or a half-hour to give back and that's all I ask. We tell the community we want to get things done, and we'll stretch things out a week, month to expand the projects so we can tackle them and really change some lives."

University Make A Difference Day has grown from a project of 1,000 volunteers last year to a sprawling group of approximately 3,000. Among those who participated and/or sponsored the week-long effort are Madison House, several sports teams and the Athletic Department, Brown College, Residential Life, First-Year Council and the University Guide Service. The groups participated in various clean-up projects, food drives, tutoring events and area renewal projects.

"Through drives and active participation [we had] 2,000 to 3,000 participating," Griffiths said. "The numbers of people benefited and influenced in the community will be thousands and thousands and thousands, maybe tens of thousands."

The events began with a canned food drive at the varsity soccer game against Clemson Saturday, Oct. 16 that extended through Sunday.

A variety of events took place last week, including the Cedars Nursing Home- University football team bingo night Thursday.

Curt Hall, co-chair of University Make A Difference Day and second-year College student, said the football team came up short in winnings to "Big Prize Bingo," but nursing home residents still had a great time.

"When I asked them what they normally give for 'Big Prize Bingo,' they said dishwashing detergent and paper towels," Hall said. "Instead of Charmin and Cascade that they give them regularly, we gave them pumpkins and candy corns."

While the football team spelled B-I-N-G-O, some University students went out into nature to collect fruit for inner-city residents.

Kara Long, fourth-year College student and Inter-Sorority Council member, helped gather 10,000 pounds of apples at Silver Creek Orchard Saturday morning along with a crowd of about 70 people representing 10 different sororities, Lawn residents, Student Council and Medical Services in Madison House.

She said although they came home smelling like apples, the results of their apple picking extended much further.

"People just had a ton of fun," Long said. "They're going to put the apples on a truck into inner-city D.C., and they're going to get distributed to food banks and the homeless people since they do not often get fresh fruit."

Madison House Tutors expressed their artistic ability Wednesday by painting the Burley Middle School mascot "Burley Bears," a globe with dancing figures and Mickey Mouse at Burley and two local elementary schools, said Kate Pomper, Madison House Tutors head program director and third-year College student.

Amid the chaos and a competition for the best mural, Pomper said the event benefited the tutors as well as the schools.

"The schools got so excited to have us that they asked us back to paint more murals," she said. "It provided us with an opportunity to interact with a large-scale objective, since we are normally one on one with a child."

Members of the Teacher and Student Community Force, Asst. Dean of Students Michelle Samuels and others got messy with paintbrushes as well, although it required no artistic ability, said Grace Ahn, TASC Force volunteer coordinator and third-year College student.

University and local Charlottesville students also waterproofed a local footbridge Sunday.

"It makes you feel so good," Ahn said. "And you can have fun while you're volunteering."

Saturday afternoon, a small army of 150 students representing several organizations shut down Porters Road and attacked Esmont Community, Griffiths said -- with garbage bags.

"The great part was that they moved a lot of trash," Hall said. "The teams decided what they wanted to do, such as ripping down old matting off houses and moving refrigerators out of lawns."

Despite the success of the week, Griffiths said he believes there is a lack of male mentors performing community service in American society.

"Somewhere along the way it's not getting done," he said. "Make A Difference Day gives people a chance who don't normally do service a chance to start."

The project has grown since its genesis three years ago.

"I had three or four things I saw at other schools, and I came here and I saw that they weren't here," Griffiths said. "I saw a tremendous amount of service being done here, but no University-wide effort, so I gave my spiel and got introduced to the right people. Then, with a stroke of luck and administrators, I worked with a student committee to plan the events of last year."

Last year, about 1,000 people participated in activities geared toward children, varying from tree planting and a carnival to a book drive.

Last semester, Griffiths and his twin brother, a senior at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, split a $10,000 grant awarded by a USA Weekend panel of judges -- which included celebrities Paul Newman and Reba McEntire. The grant is given each year to 10 Make A Difference Day Award recipients, and is funded by Newman's food company, Newman's Own. Griffiths donated his portion of the money to the Jefferson Area Board of the Aging, the Salvation Army, Albemarle Housing and Improvement and other local charities. He also saved some for this year's Make A Difference Day.

Griffiths said he wanted this year's event to be stronger organizationally, to expand to the community outside of the University, to be more effective in securing corporate partnerships, and to be more effective providing food, transportation and support for events.

He said the ultimate goal for Make A Difference Day, aside from the legwork, was something more abstract.

"Do more good," he added. "Change more lives."

Justin Saunders, Make A Difference publicity co-chairman and third-year College student, relayed the enormity of this year's event.

"It's a very large coordinated effort between many different University and community groups," Saunders said. "The whole goal of it is do a single project in one day. Frank Griffiths' idea was to do multiple projects to benefit the community"

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