Tag along for The Big Event

Nearly 900 students show up for Quinnipiac’s biggest day of service

Zoe Leone, Associate Arts & Life Editor

After a week of scorching heat and thick humidity, the temperature cooled just in time for The Big Event on April 15. Quinnipiac University students were assigned to do community service at job sites across Hamden and New Haven, with upwards of 875 student volunteers.

“Before COVID, we used to break 1,000 (volunteers),” said Rebecca Seganti, one of the co-directors of The Big Event and a junior 3+1 finance major. “But it’s been slowly coming back, which is good.”

The Big Event originated in 1982 at Texas A&M University. Over the past 40 years, the event has expanded annually to over 100 colleges across the country. It has become the largest national, student-run, one-day service project, according to the TAMU Big Event.

The Quinnipiac version of the Big Event was founded in 2010 by Jennifer Walts, the then-vice president of public relations for the Student Government Association. In a speech given to volunteers in 2016, Walt explained that she was inspired to bring the event to the university after attending a student government conference at TAMU in 2009.

The planning for this year’s Big Event started virtually over the summer before moving to in-person meetings every other week in the fall. Seganti said that when spring rolled around, the meetings changed to every week as the team finalized volunteer groups and job sites.

With so many students on the docket to volunteer, the process of making sure that there are enough job sites to spread the teams out across is no small feat.

“We go to our previous people and reach out to them. Honestly, we just look for non-profits in Hamden,” Seganti said. “One new one we found this year was an animal service because I was at QTHON and they had the emotional support animals … so now people are going to their site.”

The big day

My team started our day at Dunkin Donuts, before we arrived at the Mount Carmel Campus right at 9 a.m.. We cheered happily as we drove past the rather large line of cars to pull into our color-designated loading lane. As Taylor Swift played softly out of my car windows, we were greeted by an enthusiastic group of Big Event volunteers who directed us through all the stops with the rather intense waving of clipboards.

Soon, we were on the road to our job site with rakes in my trunk. We had been reassigned shortly before the day of, so we had virtually no idea where we were going or what we were doing.

When the GPS alerted us we had arrived at our destination, we looked rather wearily at the large driveway Google Maps instructed me to pull into. A green yard adorned with dandelions and a blue house with the shades pulled down greeted us as we parked at someone’s home.

Alarm quickly filled the car as a face suddenly appeared in one of the house’s windows, but we calmed rather quickly when we realized it was an older woman smiling kindly at us. After a quick chat through her screen door, she assured us that we were, in fact, in the right place and that she was hoping we would be able to rake the leaves in her front and backyard.

In the process of putting on our supplied Big Event shirts, the other team that was joining us pulled up. Introductions were made as we assembled our rakes, tightened our ponytails and dragged Home Depot lawn bags to the yard with us.

The next three hours were spent raking piles of leaves across the yard while we thanked whatever higher power exists that there was a pleasant breeze blowing instead of the 85 degree heat we’d been enduring all week. While it easily could’ve been monotonous, laughter filled the backyard as we gathered leaves and steadily covered ourselves in a thin layer of sweat and dirt.

“I think no matter where your site is, you’re there for a reason,” said Zoe Trotta, the team captain and a senior athletic training in the 4+3 doctor of physical therapy program. “Like this all is for a good cause to help people in need.”

After sustaining only one small injury (I accidentally stabbed myself with a stick while grabbing leaves from a flower bed), we bid our goodbyes and piled back into the glorious car air conditioning. We returned our supplies back to the volunteers on main campus and returned to our suite to take some much-needed showers and naps.