Red Foxes Giving Back
A roundup of student-led charitable projects during the fall semester.
December 18, 2019—Since its founding by the Marist Brothers, Marist has had a longstanding commitment to serving the less fortunate and contributing to the social good. Students, faculty, and staff are routinely involved in a variety of charitable projects throughout the year. This past fall, three standout events raised both awareness of childhood cancer, suicide, and youth homelessness and funds to combat all three. In addition to fostering a spirit of giving back to the community, these projects often tie into students’ longer-term goals or coursework, putting the concepts they learn in the classroom into practice in the real world.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital “Up ‘til Dawn”
In November, more than 700 Marist students participated in the annual Up ‘til Dawn event, which raises money for the pediatric cancer patients of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. On November 8, Marist students traded in a night of sleep and attended the Up ‘til Dawn event in the Cabaret; the idea is to show solidarity with the sleepless nights experienced by those affected by childhood cancer. This year’s overnight marked the 13th time this type of event has been held on campus. In 2018, Marist was named a Top Ten College Fundraiser by the hospital.
This year’s student executive director, Ava Hanlon ’20, has been part of the organization since her freshman year, and her dedication led the Marist chapter to an astonishing feat: a whopping $94,503 was raised for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This marks an all-time College high. Hanlon is deeply committed to the cause. “This event is something I can do to help children who are in a situation that no child should ever go through,” she said.
Club advisors Maryellen Guardino ’07/‘11M and Joseph Guardino ’06/’15M are justifiably proud of this year’s fundraising accomplishment. “What St. Jude does is not just about the child, it also incorporates the whole family,” said Guardino, Associate Director of the Office of Accommodations and Accessibility. “They take care of everybody being affected, which includes providing housing and ensuring that the child, parents, and siblings are all cared for.”
Guardino, Assistant Director of Housing & Residential Life, believes Marist’s work on behalf of St. Jude really fits in directly with the College’s mission. “Advancing the social good is a pillar of Marist,” he said. “One of the reasons why I think people come to Marist is because of our close connection with the local community and the ‘giving back’ mindset. This is a worthwhile cause. But having students who have that same drive to give back makes it all the better once they graduate and bring that into the world.”
Out of the Darkness Walk
Mental health can be a difficult topic to broach, but the Out of the Darkness Walk held by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) encourages individuals to open up about the realities of mental illness.
Marist’s participation in the event is organized by Dr. Daria Hanssen, Associate Professor of 3rd Annual Marist College Sleep Out in November, students slept outside on the Campus Green for one night to raise awareness about homeless youth and raise funds for River Haven, a shelter in Poughkeepsie for homeless teenagers run by the nonprofit organization Hudson River Housing. The event aims to put students in the shoes of the homeless by spending a night outside and creating a situation that feels similar to spending a night on the street. Frank Merenda, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and a retired New York Police Department captain, started the event in 2017.
"/social-behavioral-sciences/social-work">Social Work and Bachelor of Social Work Program Director. Hanssen is also the faculty advisor for the Social Work Association. “Suicide is one of the leading killers of youth,” she said. “College students have a lot of stress and anxiety to cope with, so education, knowledge, and learning about resources is very important!”
Out of the Darkness encourages people to open up about their struggles and losses related to mental health, and the funds raised by the walk allow the AFSP to invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss. Thousands of people came together to walk on the Walkway Over the Hudson in September, with Marist raising over $500 to support the organization’s work. “Service is an important part of the social work club’s activities, and it is an important part of being a social worker,” said Hanssen.
Annual “Sleep Out” for Youth Homelessness
During the 3rd Annual Marist College Sleep Out in November, students slept outside on the Campus Green for one night to raise awareness about homeless youth and raise funds for River Haven, a shelter in Poughkeepsie for homeless teenagers run by the nonprofit organization Hudson River Housing. The event aims to put students in the shoes of the homeless by spending a night outside and creating a situation that feels similar to spending a night on the street. Frank Merenda, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and a retired New York Police Department captain, started the event in 2017.
“I thought this would be a great event to raise awareness for Marist, and I discussed it with the Criminal Justice Honor Society, for which I am the faculty advisor,” said Merenda. “We thought perhaps we could take it a step further by replicating a night of homelessness outside.” The event included guest speakers from Hudson River Housing and River Haven Youth Shelter, who helped to frame the problem. Another guest speaker shared his own story of homelessness. In addition, Associate Professor of English Tommy Zurhellen discussed the plight of homeless veterans—and his own efforts to help—with the assembled students.
For Merenda, the event is an important way to educate students who want to work in the criminal justice system. While in law enforcement, Merenda had direct experience working with at-risk youth. “I was able to see how vulnerable a population they are and how important it is to raise awareness about the issues they face, along with offering services to help and support them.”