By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
If the aviator shades and fighter jets in the Grand Canyon University Day of Giving poster foretold anything about what Lope nation could expect from its newest tradition, it was the sheer heights the day would reach.
Over the course of 24 hours, 2,093 gifts were raised by members of the GCU community who came together to fund their favorite of 60 different campaigns, for a total of $206,937.00 through 9 a.m. Friday. (Here's a slideshow.)
It was a day that Director of Annual Giving Cherylann Galdi considered nothing short of a blessing.
“I’m really impressed with how many donors are interested in giving back to the community here,” she said. “As Christians, we have a heart for others, and it really showed today.”
Having a day dedicated to not only raising funds but also awareness for some of the university’s most impactful causes was a warmly welcomed addition to the campus calendar.
For Dr. Tim Griffin, Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean of Students and University Pastor, Day of Giving was the perfect opportunity to promote a campaign that has been near and dear to his heart.
Since beginning his role with the University 11 years ago, Griffin has encountered numerous occasions where students found themselves in some form of life crisis outside their studies.
When asked about what campaigns he would be interested in sponsoring or incorporating into the campaign lineup, Griffin had a quick answer: the Student Benevolence Fund.
“It’s been on my heart for years,” Griffin said. “I’m often made aware of students who just find themselves in a unique situation where they don’t know where to turn. To be able to have some funds available for those who are in sometimes traumatic situations and to be able to help a student in a moment of crisis is just, to me, the right thing to do.”
Naturally, when Day of Giving finally arrived, Griffin didn’t hesitate to donate to the cause.
“For us to raise the value of giving by having a day committed to it really does frame and clarify what we as believers should be doing,” he said. “It’s not all about receiving, it’s really about giving.
“The interesting thing about it is that when you give, you do receive.”
It was a sentiment that was especially true for Honors College program managers and GCU alumni Dennis Williams and Anya Cofrancesco. They didn't think twice about giving back to the university that has brought so much joy into their lives.
“GCU purple runs through our veins,” Williams said after he and his wife, also a GCU alum, donated to the Honors College’s Greatest Needs Fund. “To be able to participate and give back, as an alum, is definitely very special for us as well. To be able to pass that legacy on to current students and future students, it’s why we’re here.”
Cofrancesco’s decision to donate to the Honors College’s Global Studies Sponsorship stemmed from her experience seeing firsthand the impact it has on GCU students.
Past generations' generosity and willingness to donate to the most recent generation of students was something that Cofrancesco experienced during her time as a student, so giving back was especially meaningful for her.
“I graduated from GCU with two degrees, and I was blessed enough to have different opportunities back when I was a student,” she said. “I don’t know who made that possible, whether it was donated through outside professionals, the GCU community or even alumni who came before me. I think it’s a good way to invest in the future generation.
“I deeply care about our students and the types of opportunities they receive being at GCU and in the Honors College. It’s just a very small way for me to pay it forward.”
Of the 60 campaigns available for donors, the Student Inspiring Students scholarship fund constantly remained among the leaders.
The scholarship, which provides full-tuition scholarships to local students, was a priority for many donors, including Dr. Jim Rice, a 1971 Grand Canyon graduate, former superintendent of the Alhambra School District and member of GCU’s Board of Trustees.
“There’s no greater contribution I could make than to help prepare students for their careers,” Rice said. “I’m a big SIS supporter.”
For Rice, that support goes long past just words.
Before Day of Giving, Rice has made multiple donations to a scholarship that has change the lives of many students, such as Bliss Valdez-Rodriguez (formerly Casteel), pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education.
Valdez-Rodriguez grew up apart from her biological parents and was raised by her aunt and uncle. Many of her peers had their own childhood obstacles, and she never could have imagined attending college – until she received the SIS scholarship.
“This scholarship really allows us to really see our full potential,” she said. “Without it, I don’t know if college would have been an option.
“It goes beyond just getting the scholarship. They help you out through all four years, and I think it’s really cool.”
The way donors supported the SIS scholarship Thursday is something she’ll never forget.
“It makes me beyond grateful for those donations because it wouldn’t have been possible for us to be here today and go to college if it wasn’t for those people,” Valdez-Rodriguez said. “I truly believe that education is a truly critical thing for students to achieve.
“It just makes me so happy to see that other people believe in us and also believe that we have the potential to do great things.”
Another campaign that remained consistently on the leaderboard was Club Sports. The funds raised will pay for uniforms and travel expenses for 36 sports.
“The Day of Giving has really been a turbo boost for us,” Director of Club Sports Daniel Nichols said. “The money really helps to keep us fluid and liquid so that when things pop off, we can do them and we can give those kids those experiences that they want.”
When asked what he would say to donors, his response was simple:
Day of Giving debuted with a bang, having far surpassed the goal of 1,000 gifts, and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
“The response from the students, the faculty and staff has been amazing,” Galdi said. “Next year it will be bigger and better.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]
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