Tales from The Big Event

Residents and volunteers alike celebrate the spirit of the community during 43rd annual day of service
Moments before The Big Event Ceremony begins at 9:00 AM on Saturday, Mar 23, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
Moments before The Big Event Ceremony begins at 9:00 AM on Saturday, Mar 23, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
Photo by Hannah Harrison

More than 16,000 volunteers teamed up for The Big Event on Saturday, helping about 2,250 residents in the Bryan-College Station area. This marks the 43rd year of the nation’s largest one-day, student-run service project.

The Big Event’s purpose is for students to express their gratitude through tangible service to the Bryan-College Station communities, as well as build a deeper understanding of service, gratitude and connection in its volunteers. 

Head football coach Mike Elko, who delivered the keynote speech at the event’s kickoff, said he was amazed by the Aggie spirit.

“When I was invited to deliver the keynote, [I] was thinking, ‘Nine o’clock in the morning on a Saturday? There’d probably be like 20, 30 people,’ but I am out here today to see a sea of fighting Aggies ready to go out to serve this amazing community,” Elko said. “If this isn’t Texas A&M, I don’t know what is. This is an amazing sight.”

Allied health senior and Big Event program executive Maddie Dawson said the day exemplifies the essence of Aggieland in action.

“I’ve been a part of The Big Event since my freshman year,” Dawson said. “I have so many stories from going in, meeting residents, getting to hear stories about the residents who received the service from The Big Event and making connections. I found how special the organization truly is. The opportunity that it allows us to connect with the community to reflect our values as Aggies — I experienced that.”

Aerospace engineering junior and Big Event development executive Nate Newlund said it’s all about saying thank you.

“The founder of this event, Joe Nussbaum, cleaned a cemetery with the students as a way of saying thank you in 1982,” Newlund said. “Every year, it just kept going and going. It is just Aggieland with its traditions, you know what I mean? Every project is intended to improve the next one. The planning for the next year’s one begins right after this year’s.”

Volunteers receive their tools during the Big Event on Saturday, Mar 23, 2024.(Hannah Harrison/The Battalion) (Photo by Hannah Harrison)

Public health senior Emesh Fernando said volunteering for The Big Event inspired him to become more involved in community service and volunteer activities.

“A&M is all about the service at the end of the day — one of our core values,” Fernando said. “It felt honestly really good to be out there. I didn’t realize the time went by so fast. We wanted to finish our job and make it really good — we actually stayed an extra hour.”

Biomedical sciences junior Grace Reeves said she didn’t know what to expect even after her third time participating in The Big Event, but she keeps an open mind each time.

“It’s always such a rewarding time to be able to help out the families that give so much to us — we all benefit from them here at College Station,” Reeves said. “The family that we volunteered let their little sons come out and help us plant flowers with us.”

Genetics junior Jelisha Perera said she wanted to spend quality time with her friends while extending gratitude.

“Since I am graduating soon, I wanted to make memories that last a lifetime with these special people here at A&M,” Perera said. “It was really fun. We did yard work for a beautiful family.”

Students sing the war hymn at The Big Event Ceremony on Saturday, Mar 23, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion) (Photo by Hannah Harrison)

Norma and Stephen Schoellman are two residents who received Big Event service this year. The couple said it was a tremendous help for them, with students completing weeks’ worth of work in just a few hours by wedding, planting and bedding.

“As a former Aggie myself, I love to see that our university is giving back,” Norma said. “It honestly made me really proud to be an Aggie. We have used the service of The Big Event for several years now.”

Electrical engineering junior Alfred Hale volunteered with his organization Anglican Aggies; he said it was a time brimming with camaraderie. 

“I think it was a great time to bond with the org members — overall just grow together within the organization as a team,” Hale said. “It was a great opportunity to talk with other people, and we sang some songs and … had a really good time together.”

Newlund said The Big Event, more than anything, aims to ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience for both residents and volunteers.

“There’s so many families out here in Bryan-College Station that we can give back to, and as Aggies I feel like it is the biggest thing we can do: support the people around us,” Fernando said. “Being there for others isn’t just a choice. It’s our duty as members of the Aggie community.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Battalion

Your donation will support the student journalists of Texas A&M University - College Station. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Battalion

Comments (0)

All The Battalion Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *