UC Irvine’s own Phi Kappa Psi fraternity paired with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County last Saturday to put together “Big for a Day,” an afternoon filled with carnival attractions, like face painting and bounce houses, on the Arroyo Vista lawn.
Paul Riscalla, a second-year business economics major and vice president of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, oversaw the planning and execution of the event. After enlisting the help of the chapter’s current philanthropy chair, Josh Chiang, a second-year psychology and social behavior major, the two made sure the event went off without a hitch.
The event was part of a larger philanthropy project called Phi Psi 500, run annually by Phi Kappa Psi on a national level.
“Phi Psi 500 is a national tradition to get 500 philanthropy hours in one day. We have one major philanthropy [event] every quarter but this is our biggest,” Riscalla said. “We count our active members for the total 500, and when you add in the people not involved in the fraternity, it goes way above 500 hours.”
The dues paid by fraternity members in part funded the event. Big Brothers Big Sisters provided transportation for the children to and from the event.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County provides mentors for children ages 6 through 16 in communities across the country, with the goal of providing successful mentoring relationships for underprivileged children who need them.
Jared Smith, a second-year political science major and member of the fraternity, said that the program was meant for a day of fun.
“These kids are trying to be paired with a Big, but haven’t gotten one yet, so this has been a really good experience, bringing them into a place where there’s something fun to do,” Smith said.
According to program representatives, positive relationships between youth and their Big Brothers and Big Sisters have a direct and measurable impact on these children’s lives.
A national impact study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations showed that youth participants were more confident in their schoolwork performances, were better able to get along with their families, were 36 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school.
It’s not surprising then to learn that Big Brothers Big Sisters is listed as one of the oldest, largest and most effective mentoring organizations in the United States.
The Orange County branch of the organization has just recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, but the national organization is over 100 years old.
Ashley Sattar of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, remarked that this was the first of their “Big for a Day,” events put together with fraternities and sororities.
“We do a lot of these events, like Boomers!, bowling, hiking and Dave & Buster’s to name a few, but we usually do them with companies,” Sattar said.
Although it was the first of its kind, all parties agreed that the day went well. Sattar was glad to see the large turnout and support.
“A lot of people want to help, but aren’t able to make the commitment, so they’re able to give back for one day … Some of the kids wait for up to a year and a half to be matched with a Big, so this is a way for them to still be involved,” Sattar said.
The event garnered a total of 150 volunteers, 90 from hosts Phi Kappa Psi and 60 from several other Greek chapters on campus. About 10 members signed to undergo the application process to become Big Brothers for the organization.
Aaron MacDonald, a third-year cognitive psychology major, was so inspired by the day that he added his name to the list of those wishing to begin the application process for becoming a Big Brother.
“This was the most fun day of my life – I love being a little kid,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald spent the day with 7-year-old Isaya, rock climbing, face painting and mud sliding.
“You could just tell [the kids] were really excited about it … I would definitely be a Big Brother. I could do this every day,” MacDonald said.