The first time I participated in GIVE Day it was because I was forced to.
I suppose that sounds misleading because it wasn’t like I was shoved onto a school bus and dropped off at some random Erie neighborhood, and expected to pick up trash against my will. Rather it was forcefully encouraged, and of course it counted toward a class assignment so it practically was mandatory.
Either way you look at it, I wasn’t overjoyed to be getting up at 7 a.m. to participate in community service that particular morning of my freshman year.
After actually participating in the community service I felt better about the whole experience and I decided that it was something that I’d probably do again.
It wasn’t like I had some magical moment or life-altering realization that made me realize that I needed to go out every weekend and clean up trash and help the world become a better place, but it felt good to get off campus and do something productive.
For this year’s GIVE Day, I was able to return to the same location I helped at my freshman year — the McDannell Run near the John Horan Garden Apartments in east Erie.
As part of the International Coastal Cleanup initiative, all the volunteers in attendance picked up trash alongside the stream, street and surrounding apartment complexes.
Although it’s nice and rewarding to help clean up the community, my favorite thing about this GIVE Day activity is the opportunity to connect with the children who also help out at this event.
Each year some of the children from the neighborhood kids club join the Gannon volunteers and spend their Saturday morning cleaning up their own community.
For the two years that I’ve participated in this service activity, it has amazed me how genuinely enthusiastic the kids are.
They make it a game to see who can pick up the most cigarette butts, and get excited when they see an odd item left in the stream like a scooter or someone’s old dirty sock.
Kids are funny like that — they always find a way to see the best in every scenario and they can turn something as uninteresting as picking up garbage into a morning full of entertainment.
The energy, excitement and pure optimism they possess, despite whatever struggles they’ve faced or might be facing, is inspiring and contagious.
The children that I have encountered through service opportunities like GIVE Day, the Children’s Miracle Dance Marathon and the child care program at the International Institute of Erie have brought so many smiles to my face and laughter to my life. They’ve also inspired me to consider specializing in pediatric optometry in the future.
I never planned or expected to become this involved in service at Gannon University but I am so thankful for the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had through volunteering in university projects.
No matter what you’re going through or how busy your schedule may be, there’s always someone else who could use a helping hand or something more that you could do to help – and you might find that in helping others, you’re actually helping yourself.
This might’ve been my last university GIVE Day but I’m confident that this won’t be the last time I participate in giving back.