Newman Students respond to tragedy in Haiti

Newman students respond to tragedy in Haiti


It didn’t take Newman University senior Brian Alvarez long to react to news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti this past January. Within two days of the disaster, he began organizing a food drive, which soon included a fundraising event, which in turn generated additional efforts by others on the Newman campus.

The devistation caused by the earthquake in HaitiBrian Alvarez responds to the tragedy in Haiti

Ultimately, the events captured the attention of local media, and drew contributions from hundreds of Newman students, parents and alumni to help support relief efforts in Haiti by Catholic Relief Services and the International Red Cross.

“I was watching World News Tonight, and I was captivated by the images of devastation and the numbers of dead and all that were wounded,” Alvarez said. “I just felt like I needed to help out in some way.”

Alvarez spoke with his girlfriend, who suggested a food drive. With the help of fellow students and Newman administrators Alvarez soon created a project he dubbed “Help 4 Haiti Charity Week.” For the project, held during the first week of the spring 2010 semester, Alvarez asked everyone in the Newman community to bring non-perishable food items or water to collection boxes in the Gorges Atrium.

Alvarez, who is president of the student athletic booster club Superfans and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), then worked with Athletics Director Vic Trilli to turn the annual “Blue Out in Fugate” into part of the food drive and fundraiser. For the Blue Out, everyone attending the Jan. 30 women’s and men’s basketball games in Fugate Gymnasium was admitted free for wearing a blue shirt and donating two or more canned food items. The event also featured SAAC and Superfan members providing face-painting and Newman bracelets before the games, and drawings and other activities for prizes, including iPods and flat-screen T.Vs.

The campaign attracted the attention of several local radio stations, which spread the word in the week leading up to the Blue Out. The Wichita Eagle also did a short article on the food drive and a follow-up story on the results. In addition, KAKE TV Channel 10 and KWCH TV Channel 12 came to Fugate during the Blue Out and interviewed Alvarez for stories.

Alvarez said the Blue Out drew more than 1,000 people, the largest turn-out for basketball games of the season.
“Everyone that came to the game brought cans – that’s where the majority of our food contributions came from,” he said. “Parents brought their kids and everyone had a great time.”

Others at Newman joined in with other ideas to raise money, including student Ashley Myers, also a SAAC member, who organized “Charity Night for Haiti.” The event, a social and dance, drew about 160 people who paid $15, or $10 with a student ID from any school, to enjoy food, beverages, and a dance complete with a professional DJ.

In all, the food drive, Blue Out and dance resulted in 1,900 items of non-perishable food and $2,258 for Catholic Relief Services and the International Red Cross. A “jeans day” where Newman employees who made a donation could wear denim, raised another $730, bringing the total Newman contribution to almost $3,000. In addition, The Adorers of the Blood of Christ urged anyone wishing to make a monetary gift to go online to Catholic Relief Services ( or, which had a direct link to the International Red Cross.

Alvarez had many words of thanks for fellow students and Superfan and SAAC members who volunteered their time to help. He also gave a special thank you to Linda Fields, administrative assistant to the dean of admissions and Superfans staff advisor. Fields helped organize the events and coordinated the shipment of items to Haiti by Numana, an international hunger relief organization based in El Dorado, Kan.

Alvarez added that the timing of the earthquake — a week before students returned to campus for the beginning of the spring 2010 semester — made the project especially challenging. Still, he had faith in the idea, and the people of Newman.

“I knew it would be hard, but in the Newman community people are always willing to help,” he said. “The results were awesome given the short time we had to organize and advertise everything, but even if we got only one can of food it would have been deemed a success by me. It showed that we’re a community of people who want to help. That’s what distinguishes Newman from other schools, and it indicates why I came to Newman.”

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