The McKeldin Mall at the University of Maryland was flooded with lots of sunshine and smiling students on Wed. March 14. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, with not a cloud in the sky. It was the pefect day to let pretty pink balloons fly.
The event idea was sparked by Kevin Bacon’s “Do Good Challenge.” Bacon created the challenge to encourage students at the University of Maryland to choose a cause and “do good” on campus. In order to participate, organizations need to set goals and submit a proposal at the end of March. The top winners can receive money towards their cause, as well as other fun prizes.
Zeta Tau Alpha’s Director of Philanthropy, Claire Zahavi, thought it would be an awesome opportunity to promote breast cancer education and awareness around campus in a creative and fun way.
“Our campaign was ‘1,688 reasons to do good.’ We ‘painted the campus pink’, handed out over 1,688 ribbons and held a balloon releasing ceremony. We invited the community to come out and release a balloon in honor of those affected by breast cancer,” Zahavi said.
All of the balloons were free and eco-friendly so they would not harm the environment. There was also free cookies donated by a local bakery, Marla’s Magic. The Zeta Psi Fraternity helped Zeta Tau Alpha out by setting up their speakers and sound system so music could be played and speeches could be made. The event began at 4 p.m. and the balloon release took place at about 5 p.m.
Dr. John Olson, the University of Maryland Medical Center Chief of General Surgery and Surgical Oncology, joined the sisters of Zeta Tau Alpha along with his surgical team to speak at the event. He thanked everyone who came for participating in such a great cause and reinforced the importance of self-examination and early detection.
“What you all are doing here today is incredibly important,” Olson said in his speech, “Let this be the beginning.”
Zahavi said that the sisters of Zeta Tau Alpha had been promoting the number 1,688 on Twitter and Facebook, but kept the importance of the number a secret. At the ceremony, Zahavi informed everybody at the event that the number 1,688 represents the number of undergraduate women at the University of Maryland this year that will have invasive breast cancer within their lifetime.
Sophomore psychology major, Emily Rosen, and sophomore pre-nursing major, Tara Moores, both released balloons in honor of Rosen’s mom who is a breast cancer survivor. “It was a really cool idea and very meaningful to see all the balloons in the sky,” Moores said.
Julie Sechler, a senior hearing and speech sciences major, said the balloon release ceremony was really special to her. “I emailed my grandmother, who is a 33-year breast cancer survivor, and she said it brought tears to her eyes,” Sechler said.
Over 250 balloons were released at the ceremony. “The image of all the balloons in the sky truly showed the impact of breast cancer on our community,” Zahavi said.
The balloon releasing ceremony had never been done before at the University of Maryland, but it is something that Zahavi hopes her chapter will continue in the future since it was such a success.