On June 12th, 2016 tragedy struck the Orlando community when a gunman opened fired at a nightclub in downtown Orlando. This was a very tragic day for our community. The whole city of Orlando was in shock that something like this could happen so close to home, but there was light in all of the darkness.
I have never seen a community of people come together so quickly to show their support for the victims of the shooting. A couple of days after the event we were talking in our ZBT executive board group chat and my friend and I felt the urge to help and give our support to the community as well. We knew we wanted to help raise money for the victims and show our respect for those that were lost. Being in a fraternity gave us the ability to host events with UCF and gather people together in a way that most people were unable too. So, we felt called to put on an event to help.
We started brainstorming and quickly decided that the best event that we could put on was a 5K and we knew that we wanted to work with UCF to try to bring the whole community of Orlando together for the event. We also knew that we had to put this event on as quickly as possible. So, we pitched the idea to all of the members in my fraternities chapter to ask if they would be willing to help make this event happen. The answer was overwhelmingly YES.
So, we scheduled a meeting with UCF faculty and pitched them on our idea. I am very thankful that they gave us their full support. In that meeting, we also decided that the event was going to take place in 3 weeks!
My friend and I were both full-time students taking summer classes at the time, so we knew this was going to be a very busy 3 weeks and we really did not know how we would do it. It did not matter though because we felt called to help and nothing was going to stop us.
As soon as we had the date set and a green light from UCF, we went all in. We launched a website and a Facebook page, formed a committee of people that would help us make everything happen, planned daily meetings, and continued to coordinate with UCF faculty and our Greek Council. I can not even begin to describe how much work needed to go into this event. I will give you an idea of just a few of the important action items we had to make happen.
- Decide on where the event would take place on campus and the path for the 5k
- Set up the payment system for the 5k online registration
- Make sure the money went to proper accounts so it could be donated correctly
- Acquire sponsors for the event
- Get speakers who would be willing to speak at the event
- Find a DJ and the proper sound equipment
- Make sure everything meets UCF regulations
- Market the event to UCF students and Orlando residents
- Contact businesses, radio stations, and news stations
- Design graphics, T-shirts, banners, flyers, etc.
- Decide on fundraisers that would take place at the event
- Create the schedule for the day of the event
- And so much more…
It was safe to say that we had our work cut out for us. It didn’t look like we were going to be able to get it all done, but then something crazy started happening. Literally everyone we talked to wanted to help and give their support to the event. UCF’s Greek Council showed a ton of support, so we brought them on as co-sponsors. Left and right people started volunteering to help. Overnight this event went from looking like it was never going to happen to something way more than we could have ever imagined.
To make a long story short. Thanks to all of the members of Zeta Beta Tau, UCF’s Greek Council, UCF Faculty, and the organizations at UCF we were able to get everything done and ready for an amazing event day.
We started setting up early in the morning on what we thought was going to be a beautiful day. Then, 10 minutes before we started sign-ins the Florida weather came in full force and it started pouring. We had all of our tables and everything set up outside under no cover and people were starting to show up. So, in 10 minutes I had to reorganize the entire layout of our event to make sure that all of the people coming to sign in would be able to stay dry. Thankfully, we were able to make this happen. After a little, the sun came back out and from then on the event was perfect. We even had a couple celebrities and the local news show up!
The video at the top of this post will give you an idea of what the day was like!
All in all this event turned out better than anything my friend and I could have ever hoped for. We had an attendance of well over 1,000 people and we raised over $10,000 dollars! Everyone at the event said that they had a great time and that we did a great job as making sure we remembered those that were lost. One of the members of the UCF Greek council knew the owner of the nightclub. So, we were able to talk to the owner to find out where the money could be most usefully donated. Even though Disney and other companies had donated millions of dollars, the employees of the nightclub were out on their own with no job and all of the psychological hurdles to overcome. So, the money we raised was given to the owner so she could help those employees get back on their feet.
This event showed me how a simple idea can turn into something that has massive positive impacts on the world. I hope to always remember that as I go through my daily life and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to help others again.