Creative First-Year Charity Drive Raises $5,000

Regan, Whitbeck

Law students Jeremy Regan and Lieselot Whitbeck work together on a Habitat for Humanity project.

June 4, 2012

First-year law students at the University of Virginia planned assassinations, fought wars and experienced a little (March) madness this past spring — all in the name of charity — as part of the First Year Council's inaugural, year-long service initiative.

The effort, which included light-hearted competitions to raise money for a dozen charities, collected more than $5,000 by the close of the school year, said outgoing First Year Council President Emily Schirmer.

"I'm incredibly proud of all the work the 1L class, and the school as a whole, put into this new initiative," Schirmer said. "Despite a spring semester that flew by, every section found the time to give back in its own way."

The service initiative began in the fall, as each first-year class section chose at least one charity to support. Events such as Section L's "No-Shave November," which raised $1,300 for the Charlottesville Free Clinic, added a competitive team element to the effort, Schirmer said. (More)

Section B raised more than $2,000 for Paul Newman's The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a camp for sick and terminally ill children, through a change-collecting game called "Penny Wars." The game encouraged first-year students, as well as professors, to compete for bragging rights to see which section could raise the most money. Change placed in a section's jar counted toward the total, while quarters counted against.

"Penny Wars worked so well because sections could ask professors to get involved," Schirmer said. "Professor Anne Coughlin [who taught A's small-section course this year] was a huge contributor to Section A, [which] won the competition by raising more than $800 after the quarters were deducted."

Section K raised $450 for We, The Readers, a program that offers free books and literacy mentoring to children, by charging $5 a person to play "Ninja Assassins." At the start of the game, players were confidentially given the name of one other player. The goal was to sneak up on that player and "assassinate" them by throwing socks at the target, and then collect from the victim the next name to assassinate. The winner was the last player standing.

In a collaborative effort, Sections A, C and J raised a total $475 for their respective charities — Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership, the Wounded Warrior Project, and Back on My Feet — by taking advantage of student interest in March Madness. Participants were invited to create a bracket for the basketball tournament online and then donate an entrance fee — with proceeds going to at-risk children, American war veterans and the homeless.

Fundraising by sections D and F, which included bake sales and sponsoring law students running in a 5K race, accounted for an additional $1,150. But the charitable efforts weren't just about monetary contributions. Sections I and L also donated meals they cooked to guests staying at the Ronald McDonald House and to the staff of the Charlottesville Free Clinic, respectively. Section H dedicated their labor on a Saturday to Habitat for Humanity. And Section E volunteered to spruce up Camp Holiday Trails, a local camp for children with chronic or terminal illnesses.

"Adopting these diverse charities was a great way to get the 1Ls excited about giving back to the community," Schirmer said. "I'm hopeful that next year's 1Ls will continue this initiative and turn it into a UVA Law tradition."

Professor Coughlin agreed. "It was — and, I hope, continues to be — a great thing for the Law School." 

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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