Each spring, more than 6,000 University of Oklahoma students, faculty, staff, and alumni gather to volunteer through The Big Event. After the day of community service was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event’s committee pivoted to organize a smaller, socially distanced day in the fall to allow people to serve and still make an impact.
The Little Event is held on a smaller scale than The Big Event each fall, with certain student groups invited to participate, said chair Lindsay Wiseman. However, the executive committee decided to open up the 2020 version to anyone on campus.
Over 350 volunteers served at 18 job sites across the Oklahoma City metro area as part of OU's Little Event. Many of the projects were outside, and the organization also enforced masks and social distancing.
“It’s just really a great opportunity to serve at nonprofits, churches, schools, and other places that give back to our community and to be able to give back to them,” explained Wiseman, a senior microbiology, pre-med major from Lubbock, Texas. “I think people really enjoyed it and enjoyed the opportunity to connect with people again in a safe way.”
Although plans are not yet finalized for the 2021 Big Event, Wiseman said she expects it to be structured similarly to The Little Event in terms of having several outdoor projects and requiring masking and social distancing.
Wiseman reiterated that any member of the OU community can be involved with The Big Event. If someone does not want to sign up on their own, they can register with friends as a group and serve together with those people during the event.
The Big Event helped the university in another way this fall, too. Following a recent ice storm, The Big Event teamed up with the International Advisory Committee to coordinate Rake It Up. During this afternoon of service, more than 100 students helped clean up tree branches and other debris on campus.
In addition to her work with Big Event, Wiseman also works in the Student Affairs office, is part of the OU Visual Neuroscience Laboratory, and is a member of the logistics team at the OU Food Pantry. She said that when it comes to service opportunities at OU, there are many options.
“I think it’s really important to us to say thank you to Norman and Oklahoma City,” Wiseman explained. “Norman is a college town, and they really accommodate us students. We come here for four years and then we leave sometimes, but they just really love OU and we just always feel the support from this community. So I just think serving is an amazing, easy, free way to give back and to say thank you for that.”