The Big Event is the University of Oklahoma’s official day of community service, as well as the largest student-run volunteer effort in the nation. Beginning on the Texas A&M campus in 1982, The Big Event has since spread to 72 other universities across the nation. What stands out about The Big Event, however, are the students, faculty and staff involved. On many of these campuses, no other event brings together people from so many different cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities, hometowns and majors to work together for one common goal: to make their community a better place in which to live.
This past year, The Big Event at OU alone sent more than 4,800 students into the Norman and Oklahoma City communities to paint, remove litter from roadways, plant fresh flowers and visit with senior citizens on Saturday, March 27. We sent our volunteers to schools, animal advocacy centers, city parks, veteran’s centers and social service agencies. We also sent over 1,000 volunteers to the Oklahoma City Zoo to help build a brand now playground, and we sent another 35 students to build Norman’s first off-leash dog park—a project that had been planned for over a year but had never begun because of the large number of people needed to build it. These volunteer centers and non-profit groups do so much for our community that we want to give back to them because of what they have done for us.
The sixth annual Big Event on April 2, 2005, will send an estimated one out of every four OU students into our community. Because of the tremendous response we have received from the people we serve and university officials, we have decided to focus more efforts of bringing together all The Big Events from across the country and expanding the event to more college campuses. We believe that The Big Event can do so much for the student community, as well as the college’s community, so we are eager to make it a more nationally recognized day of community service.
Seeing so many students give up a Saturday morning and seeing the looks on their faces when they see thousands of their fellow Sooners is a feeling to which few words do justice. Knowing that dozens of organizations eagerly anticipate the next year’s Big Event helps us realize that all of the work we do actually does make a difference. We take pride in this event because we know that it shows that the next generation is not apathetic and lazy. It shows that we care, that we have compassion and that we will not hesitate to get our hands a little dirty to help out someone in need.