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Aggies donate time as 2021 Big Event carries on safely after last year's cancellation

Posted at 10:22 AM, Mar 28, 2021

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS — A sight with 15,000 tools, 300+ Big Event staff and over 10,000 Aggies donating their time and their service could only mean one thing: the 2021 Big Event is here.

It's been a year since we saw many events get canceled due to the beginnings of what turned out to be an unprecedented year.

Now, after a year off, many signature events are back on, including Texas A&M's highly anticipated "Big Event."

After a year of shutdowns and uncertainty, demonstrating selfless service by supporting our community and our neighbors is the Aggie way.

"It's a day of coming together to say thank you and that's the simplest way to put it that we are all coming together to work together towards one main goal and serving the residents of Bryan College Station," Connor Harwell, a Recruitment Executive of The Big Event said.

Staff says "The Big Event" is the largest one-day student-led service project in the nation.

Connor Harwell, responsible for recruiting staff, residents and student volunteers, says simple acts of service go far beyond the raking of leaves and the pulling of weeds.

"It's our way of saying thank you to our residents who do so much for us throughout the year, whether that be sharing all of the facilities throughout the cities, dealing with us at the grocery store, hearing college students stay up late at night, they are extremely kind to us, they love us and welcome us every year. That's our way of saying thank you to them by a simple act of service," Connor Harwell said.

Shutdowns from the pandemic also affected The Big Event and people who benefit including Wanda Paris, who has had Aggies knocking on her door offering their help for the last 25 years during this Aggie day of service.

"I couldn't be upset because they weren't here last year...but boy did I miss them. Not only are they doing work for me but the students are so friendly," Wanda Paris, one of The Big Event residents said.

Harwell says preparation to allow the event to carry on safely was in collaboration with the Brazos County Health District and the TAMU COVID-19 task force.

"Obviously it's been such a weird year for everybody. We had to cancel last year, nobody would have expected that. Nobody would have expected the world the way it is today. We have been working extremely hard to make sure that it is safe, also effective and that everyone on both ends, residents and staff all continue to do what we love to do and serve the residents and bring that joy to them," Harwell said.

Harwell says during the 2021 event, they were not having groups larger than 10 students at job sites and some groups were split up to best serve the residents.

Masks were required and students were only staying 2 hours, versus the usual 4 hours.

"They usually give me 12 people...6 for the inside and 6 for the outside. They plant, they mulch, you could see what it looks like and once when they finish, they do such a great job. They do a lot of things that I can't do like clean the fire place because I can't get on a ladder anymore," Paris said.

Thankfully The Big Event is back on and students are ready to make an impact and put others first, including freshman Kyle Harwell who says the Aggie way is the only way he knows.

"I've heard all my life. My dad is an Aggie. I've come here every single year of my life and just being able to see the Aggie core value...Everyone is so nice and friendly here and that's just the Aggie way," A&M Freshman and The Big Event volunteer, Kyle Harwell said.

"They just don't understand how much they help. They can't even begin to understand," Paris added.

While the majority of volunteers donated their time in-person, staff say some did a virtual job, who assisted virtually with the American Red Cross and the Aggieland Humane Society.

Normally each spring, around 20,000 student volunteers donate their time. Since the event's inception in 1982, over 1 million service hours have been donated by Aggies.