Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

Building a better community for today and tomorrow

Erin Maxwell '22 (center) poses with fellow volunteers during Magical Day, a lively event for children at the Burrage Mansion.

During the last week of my first year of college at the University of Redlands, I was led out of the assembly room as a new member of the academic honor society SPURS. Each of my nervous fellow first-year SPURS and I were given a candle. As we passed the candle flame, wick to wick, in our welcome ceremony, the purpose of SPURS came to mind: since 1931, the organization has aimed to serve the University and surrounding community and foster among all students a spirit of helpfulness, while maintaining high academic standards.

This year, the group decided to focus on children to express our five SPURS principles: service, patriotism, unity, responsibility, and sacrifice. This work has been helping to create a better community for today as well as tomorrow. 

In addition to partnering with Big Buddies at the Halloween Carnival and volunteering at the annual toy drive in the city of Redlands, we have been working with the Rochford Foundation. This private, nonprofit organization has restored and maintained the Burrage Mansion and has offered this historic and lushly green setting to other local nonprofits that serve children.

One recent event on these grounds was Magical Day. My shift began at 9 a.m., setting out items including paper craft materials, a ring toss board, and a decorate-your-sword booth. I was assigned to face painting for the first round, tucked away in a room with whimsical wall-to-wall murals. I was set up with my paintbrush in one hand and an array of colors on my palette when the first few children began to trickle in, decorated swords in hand.

Each choose whether they wanted to be a pirate or a princess. Some, like a charming little girl in a bright pink dress who requested a heart with skulls for eyes on her cheek, chose both.

Brand-new members of SPURS gather after a candlelight initiation.

Next came the meal. Other SPURS and community volunteers had scurried back and forth, pouring tap-stones and small toy fish into vases, fixing the angle of decorative table-mats, and preparing the magnificent feast I helped serve to eager families. I was especially struck by the delighted shrieks of children when they first saw princesses Elsa, Anna, Moana, and Rapunzel seated primly around a tea table at the head of the room.

Another highlight was the staging of part of the “Once Upon an Adventure” story, while the children sat rapt on a blanket next to the stage. Princesses and pirates agreed to work together in a beautiful song, and volunteers and families alike sang along.  Then there was a rush to the final station, where goodies were passed out to anyone who wanted.

When all the children had gone, it was time for the second shift!

SPURS members set up booths, helped children go from event to event, prepped food, painted faces, ran games, assisted actors, served food, and scurried around cleaning up the balloons and glitter of a joyful day's chaos. Our SPURS group was an important part of the 150 volunteers it took to make the Magical Day possible.

Volunteering with the Rochford Foundation and at other opportunities through SPURS has really shown me what the “light of service” is.

It is the dazzling smile of “Princess Ariel” as she convinces, through music, every greedy pirate, tired volunteer, and strong-headed child to let a little joy in their lives.

It is the bright eyes of that little girl dressed as Jasmine, first convincing me, pink Tic-Tac-Toe tiara held like a weapon, to join the princesses, then telling off Captain Jack Sparrow himself.

It is the glittering tears of the mother who comments she is overwhelmed to hear her child laugh again.

The “light of service” is the glow of a room full of singing princesses and the silent SPURS members in the background dressed in black, ferrying plates to the kitchen and bringing out cupcakes to the sound of delighted laughter.

Learn more about student life at the University of Redlands.