It was hard not to notice the seemingly infinite amount of balloons coloring the halls, quad and Chapel lawn at Saint Mary’s College on Friday afternoon, and it was even harder to miss the smiles of 195 children from schools in Oakland and Concord as their Saint Mary’s “buddies” guided them through an unforgettable carnival experience.
The balloons and children enlivened the campus as part of Carnival 4 Kids, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. The goal of the carnival is to give kids “a positive, fun-filled, and educational afternoon with SMC Gaels,” says Ryan Lamberton, community engagement coordinator for the Catholic Institute for Lasallian Action at Saint Mary’s.
The children who attend the carnival come from low-income neighborhoods, so bringing them to the SMC campus “promotes higher education to children and fosters relationships among children and college students,” Lamberton says. He added that it also “provides a fun carnival for the children and encourages a meaningful service experience for SMC students.”
The children, ranging from prekindergarten to first grade, began arriving on campus at around 2 p.m. and were paired up with their buddies – Saint Mary’s students who volunteered as personal guides. Each was given a passport, backpack and a book, and then they were led to the carnival area, where a giant hot-air balloon was tethered on the De La Salle Lawn. The surprises didn’t stop there. Soon, the kids were petting ducks and chickens; playing with snakes, lizards and spiders; or winning prizes at booths hosted by Saint Mary’s students.
Being able to take part in the transformation of a child’s life on campus is a joy few college students experience, but hundreds of Saint Mary’s students had that chance on Friday. The Psychology Club, La Hermandad, the men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams, the women’s basketball and volleyball teams, Mission and Ministry, Gael Force, Project Green and a number of other groups all volunteered their time to give back to the community.
The kids were clearly having a lot of fun getting their faces painted, dribbling basketballs and scoring goals, playing ring toss with hula-hoops, planting seeds, bowling and playing Twister. Some of them even showed off their best dance moves, outperforming their buddies and dancing to “Hammer Time” with the Gael Mascot.
The 10th Annual Carnival 4 Kids “Journey Around the World” was created through the vision of senior Lisa Doherty and junior David Lobato, the co-coordinators of the event, along with a committee of 20 members who have met since February to bring the vision to life. Doherty and Lobato began their work in September. Lobato said he committed over 300 hours of service to the Carnival because to him Carnival 4 Kids is the “best day of the year.” When people ask why he is a part of it, he responds, “It’s the only day on campus where you have over 150 kids smiling, laughing and having fun.”
Freshmen Adrianna Aboumrad, a committee member, said she was “mind blown” by the event. This was her first time being a part of the carnival, and she did not expect to see so much energy on campus. Sophomore Kayla Berrios said she was glad she volunteered as a buddy after seeing how “super cute” the kids were. Kayla watched over Wendolyn Chamorro, an adorable girl from Cambridge Elementary School who could not find the words to describe her experience at Saint Mary’s, but her giant smile said it all.
Although the children were too young to truly understand the benefits of higher education, a few hours of simple, joyful fun on a college campus can have a big impact on a child. Senior Meghan Madgett said she was just happy that the kids got to experience a “worry free and happy day."
By Liset Puentes '15
Photos by Andrew Nguyen '14