A campus group spent Thursday night, May 5, putting the finishing touches on plans for a run to raise money for the homeless. The run, scheduled for the next day, had a little different twist: Runners wore nothing but their underwear.
If you’re not familiar with the undie runs held during finals week at UCSB, here’s the scoop. The traditional undie run occurs at midnight on the Wednesday of each finals week. A group of 100-200 students meet outside UCSB’s campus library, take off everything but their underwear, and run through I.V. The clothes that students take off are put into boxes and donated to various organizations.
Alex Gomes, chair of UCSB’s CALPIRG (California Student Public Interest Research Group) Chapter, said his organization wanted to combine a fun event, the undie run, with a worthy cause. “It is something to remember,” he said. In order to register for the run, participants had to pay a $5 fee. The money raised is going to be divided between two groups: 75 percent will go to the Red Cross for Japan’s tsunami victims, and 25 percent to Transition House, Gomes said. The clothes donated at the event will be given to homeless shelters.
Gomes said another goal of the event was to generate awareness about homeless issues by giving students a hands-on experience. For this reason, money is not all the organization is planning to donate. Amy Maggard, coordinator for CALPIRG’s Hunger and Homeless Campaign, said the run has an interactive component: Students were asked to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before the run, with supplies donated by Silvergreens. “We really want to get students involved,” Maggard said.
The next step was to get the sandwiches in the hands of the homeless. Maggard said that the plan was to have volunteers distribute the sandwiches on State Street the next day. In case you’re wondering why PB&J, it is a part of the group’s mission. The Hunger and Homeless Campaign has as its motto “Filling empty tummies, one PB&J at a time,” Maggard said.
This isn’t the first time that students have gotten together to deliver food to the homeless. Maggard said PB&J sandwiches made with donations from Trader Joe’s have been used to feed the I.V. hungry or homeless in the past. “They were so incredibly grateful,” she said. On Valentine’s Day, homeless people in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park got a treat when students hand-delivered candies and valentines.
Silvergreens Restaurant in I.V. marked both the start and the finish of the approximately one-mile run. Haggard said the original idea was to have a 5K run, and invite everyone in Santa Barbara to the event, but ultimately event organizers decided it would be better to make it a local affair, and use it as a way to educate students about the homeless in their community. Prizes for fastest female runner, fastest male runner, and best in the underwear contest included gift cards from the Isla Vista Food Co-op, I.V. Drip, and the Bagel Cafe.
Overall, the idea of promoting good deeds by having students engage in something fun is brilliant. What student wouldn’t consider it a good idea to take off their clothes for a good cause? I would recommend emphasizing fun and good works in other ways as well.
The Isla Vista Recreation and Park District offers lunch to students who help clean up trash after Halloween, but maybe this approach can be broadened to make trash pickup fun. How about an undie/trash run? Maybe not. That might be gross. Maybe just an I.V. trash-awareness day in which prizes are given out for the cleanest properties and the individual or group that picks up the most trash. Some of I.V.’s more stubborn problems might be solved with a little ingenuity and an emphasis on making these group efforts enjoyable.
The question always comes back to who is responsible for increasing awareness about social and environmental issues. There are many campus groups that raise awareness with their activities, but it might be a great idea to start inculcating this awareness during freshman orientation. Right from the get-go, new students could be educated about trash pickup, recycling, and otherwise helping the community.
While good fences sometimes make good neighbors, that’s not an option here. UCSB and the I.V. community have to work together to ensure that students improve, rather than trash, their environment.