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Saint Mary’s student service commissioners reflect on organizing annual Notre Dame Band service trip

| Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Over fall break, 44 members of the Notre Dame Band traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to participate in the group’s annual service trip. The students spent four days completing various projects in Cleveland and dedicated an additional day of service to the Green Bridge Growers, an urban farming community in South Bend.

Saint Mary’s sophomore Sam Miller, one of three student service commissioners who organized this year’s trip, said the students who participated created a playground and cleaned up a local beach. The students also worked with groups such as the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, MedWish International, Laura’s House, Green Corps, Drink Local Drink Tap and Metro Catholic Elementary School.

“By serving the community of Cleveland, with the vast amount of people on the trip, we were able to positively impact the community in a brief amount of time,” Miller said in an email. “Due to the size of the group, we were able to impact the community by packaging hundreds of meals at the food bank, repackaging discarded medical supplies to send to third world countries, cleaning up 39 pounds of trash during the beach clean-up, turning a parking lot into a playground by painting various playground games and harvesting final crops before winter.”

Courtesy of Sam Miller

Band members high-five students at Metro Catholic Elementary School in Cleveland, Ohio. The band helped to paint the school playground, and gave a private performance to the students.

The band members especially enjoyed their time working with Metro Catholic Elementary School and Laura’s House, an emergency shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence, Miller said.

“At these locations, we were able to directly work and engage with the people we were serving,” she said. “We played games with the kids at these locations and also played concerts.”

These projects brought members of the band closer to the Cleveland community, as well as to each other, Miller said.

“When band members come together to serve a community, it forms a bond bringing people from various backgrounds and sections together to achieve a common good,” Miller said.

Saint Mary’s junior Allison Okeley, another service commissioner, said this sense of community was cultivated during the long Cardinal bus ride from South Bend to Cleveland as well as through the generosity of the Notre Dame alumni from the Notre Dame Club of Cleveland, who hosted the band members in their homes for two nights.

The sleeping arrangements varied from night to night, Okeley said, with all 44 band members spending one night on a gymnasium floor. Another night, eight members were hosted by a Notre Dame alum and member of the Notre Dame Club of Cleveland whose property was large enough to double as hunting grounds, she said.

“They had separate wings to their house,” Okeley said. “Each one of those eight boys got their own room.”

As acting service commissioners, Okeley said she, Miller and Notre Dame junior Daniel Griffin were in charge of planning every aspect of the service trip.

“Something that’s actually really cool about it is that the trip is entirely student-run and student-led,” she said. “All three of us planned pretty much every detail of the trip, down to where the bus parks, where we ate, how much money we were going to spend on things, the different homestays, who was staying with whom.”

The trip provided band members with the unique opportunity to travel outside of the tri-campus community, popping the collegiate “bubble,” Okeley said.

“Doing service trips just is a fun way to get out of the community and do something different,” she said. “So the service trip is one of the only events that we do that is not focused around our instruments. It’s a lot of very typical service, and it gets out into a different community other than Notre Dame.”

The four days spent on the road and in the Cleveland community also allowed the band members to build relationships across sections, bringing players of all different instruments in the band closer together, Okeley said.

“Something that is really cool with this trip specifically is that it allows you to meet a lot of different people in different sections and with different age groups” she said. “We spent a lot of the time in the gym. We played a big game of knockout but then we also just spent a lot of time talking. … I talked to people that I had never talked to before and got to get to know them.”

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