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University community goes ‘all in’ for Redlands on fourth annual Giving Day

Carlos Chavez '23 recites the "Och Tamale" as part of a Giving Day challenge. Chavez made a $5 contribution to support first-generation students, to which a $45 gift was added by generous donors. (Photo by Coco McKown '04, '10)

More than 1,300 alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students, and friends joined together for the University of Redlands’s fourth annual Giving Day on April 7, raising more than $350,000 in a record-breaking effort to support numerous departments and programs throughout the institution.

“It was exciting to be part of Giving Day and see the University community come together to support the many different areas of campus that mean the most to them,” said President Krista L. Newkirk. Krista showed her Bulldog spirit during the Giving Day event at Hunsaker Plaza, where she joined Director of Athletics Jeff Martinez and others in shooting hoops to unlock a giving challenge for Bulldog basketball. Krista and First Gentleman Lew Glenn also created their own $3,000 matching opportunity for gifts from graduating Class of 2022 students and young alumni from the Classes of 2017-2021.

Rah, Rah, Redlands! Creative challenges and matches leverage donors’ gifts

One of the donors whose gift was doubled by Newkirk and Glenn’s match was Celine “CJ” Akroush ’25, who made her first gift of $5 to Bulldog women’s soccer team on Giving Day. By successfully reciting the beloved “Och Tamale” chant after making her contribution, Akroush raised an additional $45 for her team, for a total of $50. “Our team wants to raise funds to travel to New Jersey for pre-season, as well as a possible overseas next trip next summer. We want to be sure all team members can participate,” Akroush said. “It was a no-brainer to support my team.”

This fun challenge was made possible by Vice President for Advancement Tamara Michel Josserand, Dean Emerita Char Burgess ’69, ’70, and Director of Alumni and Community Relations Shelli Stockton. “We love the ‘Och Tamale’ tradition, so we thought it would be a way to incentivize students to learn it while also showing them that it is fun to give,” said Stockton, who cheered on students in the Hunsaker Plaza who completed the challenge that afternoon. “They feel like they are doing something significant for a club, team, or department they love.”

This year’s Giving Day included 35 matches and challenges, more than double the number of opportunities from the previous year to help donor gifts of all sizes to go further. Alpha Theta Phi kept its first-place status as the Greek organization with the greatest number of donors (76), followed by Beta Lambda (65).

President Krista L. Newkirk (right) shows her Bulldog spirit during the Giving Day event at Hunsaker Plaza, joining Director of Athletics Jeff Martinez and others in shooting hoops to unlock a giving challenge for Bulldog basketball. (Photo by Coco McKown '04, '10)

Champions in competition and contributions

Keeping in the tradition of previous Giving Days, support from Bulldog Athletics dominated the day’s activity, with more than $190,000 in contributions from over 850 donors.

Twenty of those donors were secured by Akroush, who volunteered as a Giving Day ambassador to help spread the word on social media about the opportunity to support Bulldog women’s soccer. “When our coaches told us about it, I opened Snapchat and messaged as many friends as I could,” said Akroush, the number two ambassador for this year’s event. “Even a couple dollars can go a long way. I love soccer, so that makes it easier to ask.”

Suzette Soboti, head coach for women’s soccer and lacrosse, went “all in” by securing matches and challenges for her teams, including her brothers Daniel and Antonio. “My parents instilled a love of athletics in us, and we have always given back to each other,” Soboti said. One of these challenge opportunities resulted in Soboti getting “pied” in the face by student-athletes brandishing plates of whipped cream in Hunsaker Plaza. “Athletes are competitive by nature, and Giving Day is a fun and motivating way to get everyone involved, including our alumni. It’s a good reminder that we are all in this together.”

A tradition of giving back

With the first Giving Day launched in 2019, the University Advancement team is grateful to all who participate in the annual event as donors and ambassador volunteers. “We are so proud of how our Bulldog community responded to meeting the University’s most pressing needs during this record-breaking Giving Day,” Josserand said. “We express our deep appreciation to our donors, especially those who offered matches and challenges; our campus partners; and our social media ambassadors, who made sure everyone in their networks knew about the opportunity to support our students.”

While Giving Day is over, you can still go "all in" for Redlands; to make a gift, visit www.redlands.edu/givenow or call 909-748-8050. Another easy way to support Redlands is through AmazonSmile, a program that donates 0.5% of your Amazon purchases to your designated charity. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, direct your support to the University of Redlands.