All posts by Amy Thorington

What Makes BIG Event So BIG?


BIG Event is an annual day of community service that has become a tradition for Auburn students. This year, more than 2,200 students volunteered at 168 jobsites throughout the local community. Students gave back to our community in many different ways. Some pressure washed porches and painted walls. Others pulled weeds and cut down unwanted limbs. One group even braved a yard full of poison ivy just to show fellow Auburn residents how much we college students appreciate them.

But what really makes BIG Event so BIG?

The obvious “big” factor is the number of the volunteers and job sites. Thousands of students met together on the Green Space Saturday morning and then spread out all the way into downtown Opelika to get to work. Project Coordinators worked with assigned homeowner and volunteer teams to make sure the day ran smoothly and effectively. With such a wide area to organize, this day wouldn’t have been possible without their help. They organized the distribution of tools and volunteers and oversaw each job site. Anslee Palmer, a freshman Project Coordinator, reflected on her first experience with BIG Event. “Things got a little messy at times,” she admitted, “but at the end of the day, we got everything done and had fun doing it! I loved getting to see the willingness of Auburn students to give back to the community and enjoy themselves while doing it.”


BIG Event is impressive for more than its numbers and statistics, however. BIG Event makes a BIG impact on Auburn residents. As college students, we owe the Auburn-Opelika community a “thank you” for allowing us to move in and call Auburn our home too. One homeowner said, “BIG Event day is my favorite day of the year! I am so thankful that these young people aren’t ‘too cool’ for us older folk. I would have never been able to rake all these leaves by myself!” Another homeowner experienced the Auburn family spirit for the first time on Saturday.  “I don’t know why you kids want to help strangers,” she said with tears in her eyes. “Y’all don’t even know me, but ever since you got here you’ve treated me like your own grandma!”. The members of the Auburn family who benefitted from a little extra help and love are one BIG reason BIG Event has become such a great tradition.


BIG Event even makes a BIG impact on us student volunteers. We all feel stressed or sleep-deprived some of the time at Auburn. We all know what it’s like to run out of spending money or time in our day. But none of us are too tired or too busy to give back to our community. Helping out for a few hours on one Saturday only adds to the great memories and experiences here at Auburn. Seeing the joy on homeowners faces and taking time to slow down and do good for someone else makes it all worth it. We have an amazing environment in which to live and learn here at Auburn. Taking the time to help others, say thank you, and relax from the stresses of school makes a BIG difference.

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This year’s slogan for BIG Event was “One BIG family, One BIG difference, One BIG Event”. Everything about this student-run volunteer day is BIG. Executive Director Leanne Portera and her team worked countless hours to make this day possible. Nothing short of selflessness and compassion could drive these Auburn students to work all year planning a day all about others. BIG Event is more than just a few hours of work…and it’s a HUGE deal to our community!


Living Out Her Platform

Elections are over, and the concourse has quieted down. You elected brand new officers based on promises of change, improvement, or leadership, fully expecting these promises to be fulfilled

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Miss Auburn is no exception. She is elected each year based on a platform and a passion for something, and she does not abandon this passion to tend to her other duties as the official hostess of the university. She embraces new opportunities, new connections, and new resources to carry out the very platform that got her elected.

Miss Auburn 2013, Tara Jones, set a perfect example of how to use her leadership to bring her platform to life. Tara first stumbled across the fact that nearly 1 billion people in this world don’t have access to clean drinking water when she was sixteen years old. When she came to Auburn, Tara became involved with the Student Government Association and an organization called Innovative Humanitarian Products Organization (IHPO). IHPO consists of engineers that are passionate about “developing products for the developing world”. These engineers made water purifiers to send to third world countries. Tara’s marketing and grant winning efforts with this organization were helping women and children across the world.

TaraLast spring, Tara was presented with the opportunity to run for Miss Auburn, where she saw her passion meet a greater purpose. Her team spent all of their efforts that week raising money and doing justice for the water crisis. She doubled her goal of $4,000 and gave clean water to villages most Auburn students will never even visit. Auburn students were inspired by Tara’s dreams of ending the water crisis, and elected her as Miss Auburn.

You can summarize Miss Auburn’s role in one word: influence. She influences visitors by being a positive, welcoming face has a hostess of Auburn University. She influences campus activities while serve alongside the SGA1 President and executive team. She influences faculty, administrators, and the community as an honorary member of the War Eagle Girls and Plainsmen. Lastly, she influences freshmen in her FLP group to turn her platform into action and become great leaders.

This past summer, a new Freshmen Leadership Program group was formed- Auburn for (WATER). According to their mission statement, Auburn for (WATER) “strives to passionately and proactively serve the world around [them] by educating Auburn University about the crisis that exists regarding the scarcity of clean water.” They serve others while seeking to “humbly lead [the] community towards a bigger goal and inspire others to join [them] in living out the creed.”


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The former Miss Auburn works alongside Director Mark Price and Assistant Directors Paige Serzen, Bradley Luptak, and Sarah Sawyer to lead a group of 45 freshmen. This outstanding group of freshmen went from not knowing each other at all to becoming friends working together to change the world. As the first group ever on Auburn’s campus to be completely focused on the world’s water crisis, they dove in headfirst. Under Tara’s leadership, the group spent months researching and learning about all aspects of the issue, focusing on awareness and fundraising. Ryan Brown, freshmen in Auburn for (WATER), tells about Miss Auburn’s influence on her experience. “I have always been a little shy,” she explains. “Tara has really inspired me to stand out and be a leader. She is so passionate about Auburn for (WATER)- it’s contagious!”

This week, all of their hard work is being put into action. They are partnering with Neverthirst, a nonprofit organization out of Birmingham, to raise $3,000 for a water project in India. They are out on the Haley concourse all week and want to share their passion to end the water crisis with all Auburn students.

They need your help! Stop by to learn more about the water project in India and donate what you can. You will see people with yellow jerry cans waiting to fill each can with donations. They have also visited various organizations over the past week to ask each one to fill their own jerry can and carry it to the concourse. This is a powerful reminder of the burden that millions of people carry every day.

There are three more easy ways that you can change lives during Water Week:

1. Order a t-shirt. It costs $15, and part of the proceeds goes toward the India project.

2. Eat out at Chipotle on Thursday from 5-9pm. 50% of all sales will go to this cause.

3. Donate online at



Miss AU Shares Her Story

On January 25, Miss Auburn University 2013 Holland Brown saw her year come to a close as she crowned the new Miss Auburn University. Although this marked the end of her reign, her service made a lasting impact on the community. Wishing to share her experiences with Auburn students, we asked Holland to tell us her story. However, her sincerity and passion is best understood if she tells you herself.


“The first thing I thought about when I finally left Auburn High School after this year’s pageant was how fast this year has gone by. This time last year, I was in disbelief to be honored with the privilege to call myself Miss Auburn University. I was excited, exhausted, and totally clueless as to just how busy this next year was going to be for me. Little did I know that it would be the best year of my life. I had a year’s worth of scholarship money, a ticket to Miss Alabama, and the chance of a lifetime to serve and represent Auburn. A huge part of the Miss America Organization is service, so the main service goal I had as Miss AU was to promote my personal platform of Juvenile Diabetes and the Miss America platform of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. I was able to serve both platforms throughout my year as Miss AU.

522121_10151401076072404_491353541_n-250x375 I support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for my personal platform in honor of my best friend Hilary who has Juvenile Diabetes. The Miss AU team and I hosted a benefit night at Moe’s Southwest and a bake sale at the Spotted Zebra of Trussville. I am also philanthropy chair of my sorority, and our philanthropy is Juvenile Diabetes. There was so much I was able do with the help of those girls. We hosted a walk in Town Creek park of Auburn, and in the fall we hosted a battle of the bands competition called Wing Jam. I was also honored with the Christine Blackburn Danner Philanthropy Award for my work with Juvenile Diabetes in the Auburn area. Overall this year, I have been fortunate enough to raise around $14,000 for Juvenile Diabetes Research.


For Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, I participated in several national events, such as IHOP’s National Pancake Day. I also attended several on campus events for Children’s Miracle Network including Dance Marathon and Phi Mu’s Boots and BBQ philanthropy.
My favorite event by far was the Princess Camp that I hosted. I went to an early learning center in Auburn and held a “camp” for little girls. We made crowns, read stories, and played games. All of the proceeds went to CMNH, and I had a blast playing princess with those little girls for the day.

Being Miss AU also included many campus appearances. I attended several philanthropy events serving as a speaker, a judge, and a guest. I attended the High School Leadership Conference and Auburn’s Relay for Life. I helped host this year’s Better Relations Day, gave out candy at Downtown Trick or Treat, and passed out name tags on Hey Day. It’s been a whirlwind, but I have loved every second of it.


The highlight of my year was going to Miss Alabama as Miss Auburn University. Getting to say “War Eagle” every night as I introduced myself on stage was something that no other contestant was lucky enough to say. People who were attending Miss Alabama for other contestants would often go out of their way to say hello to me and give a big “War Eagle!”. I felt so honored to get to walk around with the Miss Auburn University sash and crown. It was truly a special week. I will never have another experience like it! As amazing as this year has been, it was definitely time to pass on the crown. I am thrilled for our new Miss Auburn University, Meg McGuffin. Meg is one of my closest friends, so it was special to be able to hand this title on to her. I know that she is going to be a great representative of Auburn. She will be original, inspirational, and bring so much life to this title. I cannot wait to see all that Meg is going to accomplish as Miss Auburn University.


I strongly encourage any Auburn woman who is considering competing in Miss AU to do so! 2013 was an amazing year for me with opportunities that I would have never dreamed of having. The chance to earn scholarship money is great, and the friendships that you make along the way truly stay with you. If you love Auburn and think this is something for you, then go for it!

Being Miss Auburn University is the most rewarding gift this school has given me. I got to serve my school in a way I never thought I would. I am forever humbled and grateful to have had the chance to have this title. War Eagle!

A few pricks and 296 pints later

The numbers are in! We officially beat Bama in this year’s Beat Bama Blood Drive. There was a grand total of 409 people who came to the blood drive. Auburn donated 296 units of blood, while the University of Alabama only donated 151 units of blood. We almost DOUBLED their efforts!

This means Auburn students saved a potential 888 lives last week!

How did all of this happen? Nikki Wyatt, Director of Blood Drives, and Rachael Blaz, Assistant Director of Blood Drives, have been hard at work since April. After speaking with Nikki and Rachael, it wasn’t hard to see their passion for this project.

Nikki explains the planning side of blood drives. Months before the three day drive, they work on finalizing a theme, contacting companies to donate food, and finding great prizes. This time, they partnered with Sam’s Club and made a great deal- for every blood donation, Sam’s Club would donate a can to the Beat Bama Food Drive. Leave it to Auburn to go the extra mile!

Rachael says that shadowing in various health care settings has shown her the desperate need for blood. Her own experience giving blood sparked a desire to help the Red Cross blood drives. Her first experience giving blood was in high school, and Rachael has been donating regularly ever since. As the assistant director of this program, she hopes to “encourage the student body to become lifetime donors and share the amazing experience that comes with donating”.


The Red Cross reports that the top two reasons people say they don’t give blood are “Never thought about it” and “I don’t like needles”.  Don’t let these excuses convince you to not donate! The need is real. Blood cannot be manufactured – it can only come from generous donors. Be a part of the Auburn community that is known to be so giving and compassionate. If you’ve never donated before, just give it a try at least once! You may find it an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

So Auburn students have done their part, but what happens next? Have you ever wondered exactly how your donation gets from Auburn University to the one who desperately needs it?

All of the donated blood is transported on ice to a Red Cross center. There, it is processed and separated into its transfusable components – red cells, platelets, and plasma. Each part is used for a different life-saving purpose. One of five Red Cross National Testing Laboratories also receives test tubes. A dozen tests are performed on each unit of donated blood to determine the blood type and test for infectious diseases. These test results are transferred electronically to the manufacturing facility within 24 hours.

Units of blood suitable for transfusion are labeled and stored. Red Cells are stored in refrigerators for up to 42 days. Platelets are stored at room temperature in agitators for up to five days. Plasma and cryo are frozen and stored in freezers for up to one year.

Blood is available to be shipped to hospitals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! With someone needing a blood transfusion every 2 seconds, there is no such thing as having enough. 409 Auburn men and women saved lives last week- will you be someone’s hero next time?