By Eliza Partika
ASUCI and Anteaters in Action hosted UC I Give Back last Tuesday, a philanthropic event aimed at raising awareness for charity and encouraging UCI students to become involved in community service. Donations went to two organizations: Camp Kesem, a children’s camp that helps children who have been affected by a parent’s cancer, and Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a charity that donates to childhood cancer research. The event sought to bring attention to childhood cancer for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Students received stamps as they walked from booth to booth making care packages, lemonade in aesthetic jars, and playing trivia games. Each stamp represented 50 cents of donation money for each charity. Care packages made by students will go directly to campers at Camp Kesem.
In past years, the event has focused on such charities as the Anti-Cancer Challenge, donating blankets to a dog shelter, beach clean-ups and assisting a local domestic violence shelter. The mission of Anteaters in Action, according to its coordinator, Jharen Rivera, is for “the whole student body to get involved, whether they are part of a campus organization or not.” AIA wanted to make community service more accessible to students without the time commitment required by traditional community service organizations.
For Rivera the importance of this year’s UC I Give Back event lies in the education and awareness brought to childhood cancer.
“We don’t really talk about it as often as breast cancer or ovarian cancer,” Ramirez said. “Childhood cancer is on the down-low most of the time because it’s hard to talk about it, so we want to make sure students know about what’s going on, how many are affected and how they can feel like they are giving, no matter how big or small.”
This year, Anteaters in Action plans to continue these efforts with their Donate Life Week in April. The California chapter of Donate Life, a state-funded and authorized non-profit which assists people in registering for organ donation, is based in West Sacramento, where it is responsible for registering Californians to donate organs, as well as educating the public and creating organ donation trainings for California DMV staff. By hosting this event, Ramirez hopes that Anteaters in Action can give students the opportunity to learn more about organ donation.
Other events include the Run/Walk Marathon on April 28 in honor of Michael Belfa, an ASUCI student and organ donor who died last year.
“Our community is what a makes us, so we believe that we should give back to others when we truly need it,” said Ramirez. She hopes that by making AIA available to students who wish to serve their communities, they will be “spreading that love, that generosity that UCI should take pride in.”