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Students Supporting Students: Creative Fundraising

Genna Dalence, Furman University, Senior, Public Health and Religion major, & friend of grieving students

In mid-October of this year, I had the opportunity to participate in a survivor-style, week-long fundraising event put on by the Furman University Student Activities Board! This event is a long standing tradition at Furman. In order to participate, students must apply to be accepted. After acceptance, students must choose a costume to wear within the HAVOC theme of that year, choose an organization to raise money for, and essentially move out of their typical living space for a week. Students sleep outside in tents and are prohibited from going back to their rooms to shower or change clothes. The sole event of the week is to raise money. All day everyday this looks like going around to friends and professors to raise awareness for their organization and raise as much money as possible. They have until the end of the day to raise money, and at the cut off time, the money is collected and counted. “HAVOCers” also participate in challenges each day that count towards their overall score. At the end of each day, four participants are eliminated based on fundraising amounts and challenge points, and they are forced to move out of their tent. This year, I decided that I wanted to participate in this event, and I chose Actively Moving Forward to raise money and awareness for.

How did I decide to choose Actively Moving Forward as my organization? Well, this summer I learned about AMF through a research project. This summer I worked on a research project with the University Chaplain on Furman’s campus with one other student. The chaplain was interested in the topic of grief because Furman had three student deaths on campus last year and he wanted to extend the care available to students. I was interested in this topic because I have just happened to become very close friends with three people in college who have all lost a parent in the last couple of years. I have watched their grief journey throughout college and I have learned about challenging elements to grief, how friends can be supportive, and when professional help is needed. By trial and error, I have learned how to help, empathize, and listen better.

Through this project, we researched the broad topic of grief and then focused on grief among college students. We researched literature on grief, grief care among 150 other colleges and universities, and knowledge among professionals in the field of grief around Greenville and nationwide. From our research, we assessed Furman’s response to grief and loss, and offered reflection on how Furman can improve in their response. It was through this research that we stumbled upon AMF. This was a turning point in our research as we quickly realized how well researched this organization is and what tangible efforts it is doing to help college students actively move through their grief. It was towards the end of the summer that I was able to connect with AMF, learn about their mission, and work towards starting a chapter on our campus.

Flash forward October, when applications for HAVOC came out, I decided to apply. I had always heard that this service event is one that can greatly impact your life as you are living for service, surviving only from the money that you raise for your organization. I quickly decided that AMF was the organization that I am most passionate about and who I most strongly wanted to raise not only money but awareness for. It was through this experience that I thought I could live out part of our research goals, to raise awareness and start conversations about college student grief. So all week, as I was dressed up in my crazy costume, I told people about AMF and my research. I told them about my personal connection with the topic and the need to start talking about this “silent epidemic.” I did not realize that my passion for this topic could grow, but that week it absolutely did. Yes, the focus was on raising funds, but the most personally impactful part were the countless conversations I was able to have with people about grief and loss and why actively addressing our emotional needs is essential.

Throughout the week, I was able to talk to an elderly woman about her experience as a grief counselor, several students who are grieving and looking for support, professors curious about my unique cause, and several others with an interest in mental health needs. This experience not only humbled me to live for service, but it clarified one of my personal missions for college. I learned that through my experience of bringing awareness to college student grief, I have served as an advocate for my friends. An advocate to those who are struggling, but are in too much pain to stand strong. I have been able to raise awareness about the realities of grief, the problems of mental illness, and the empathy that is needed to understand others and love them through times of pain. I have been greatly impacted by this experience and am thankful for AMF for doing this work and supporting thousands of grieving students.

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