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Make-A-Wish Club fundraises for children with medical conditions

Notre Dame’s Make-A-Wish Club is a small organization of about 20 to 30 active members who share a collective hope to enrich the lives of children in the South Bend area that face life-threatening medical conditions.

Club members, who call themselves “WishMakers,” works to raise money to fulfill the wish of one child each year. On average, this requires funding of about $7,000 per wish.

But the wish is only part of the package, according to senior Lainey Teeters, the club’s chief of staff.

“Basically our inspiration is just to make a kid’s wish [come true] in the dark time in their life that is sickness. And so, sometimes we get to meet the kids, we get to, like, communicate with them throughout their wish. For example, we’ll send them cards and also little things just to get them excited,” Teeters said. “We really just want to give them something to look forward to.”

Senior Megan Campbell, the club’s Wish Kid liaison works more directly with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, organizing the physical wish details, as well as creating events for the local children waiting for a wish. Campbell mentioned her own experience that drove her to join the club.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but basically one time my family was at Disney World and we happened to be in line… we were up next and [a family] popped right in front of us. We started talking to one of the Wish Kids who was there getting their wish granted with their parents. I just always wanted to support the cause ever since,” Campbell said.

For senior Tyler Knapp, secretary for the club, Make-A-Wish is a cause near and dear to him.

“My inspiration for joining it was because I was actually a Wish kid,” Knapp explained. “So, in my junior year of high school, I was diagnosed with leukemia. And I just know, from going through that experience, how tough it is on all those kids, there’s no, like, good days for that. So I really just wanted to give back to everyone who helped me out in my experience.”

Knapp described feeling grateful that Notre Dame has an opportunity for him to get involved with the organization on campus.

“I’m honestly really thankful for the opportunity to be able to do something like this,” Knapp said. “I’m so glad that Notre Dame has a club like this where I can give back so easily. I don’t even have to reach outside of campus to be able to help out.”

Among the various inspirations of members for joining, all agree on a common theme of “direct impact.” Members enjoy knowing how they are helping out. Sophomore Kaitlyn Leshak, the club’s publicist, explained what she feels is unique about Make-A-Wish.

“[Make-A-Wish] is such a big organization, and even though we’re such a small branch, you know that your fundraising is out there working and that people are getting something out of it,” Leshak said.

Sometimes, members even get to experience the effects of the club’s work first-hand. Teeters recalled a couple of the wishes she has gotten to witness as part of the club.

“My freshman year we granted the wish of someone and it was a Best Buy shopping spree. And so the club members went to Best Buy with him and he got a computer, a TV, a bunch of video games, like all sorts of electronics because that’s what he really liked,” Teeters said. “Another one we did, her dream was to be an artist. And so she got to go to the Chicago Art Institute and she got a year membership and then also had a day where she worked with the team to create art.”

Wishes look different for every kid. For some, their dreams and role models are actually here on the Notre Dame campus.

“We’ve granted wishes for people to come to a Notre Dame football game. And they get to experience the entire Notre Dame game day. They get to walk out with the team. They get to experience the locker room, they get to go on the field, they get to do all of that,” Teeters said.

As far as the funding goes towards ensuring these wishes can be granted, the club’s two biggest fundraisers every year are typically Notre Dame Day and their football concession stand. The Make-A-Wish club also plans various bagel stands, holiday events and restaurant fundraisers throughout the year.

Coming up this semester, the club has a few additional fundraisers in the works. On October 14th, they will be hosting an “egg roulette,” where a couple of professors and students have volunteered to have an egg cracked on their heads — whether it will be hard-boiled or regular is up to luck.

Another event on the books for the club is a Halloween Party on October 29th. Teeters explained that there will be a bunch of Wish Kids there enjoying trick-or-treating, face painting and fun games.

The club meets every other Wednesday and if students are interested in joining Make-A-Wish, the club’s leadership encourages them to reach out to mawnd@nd.edu.

“We always get a lot of signups for the club, but then people don’t feel like they can get as involved,” Knapp explained. “But, [there are] so many little things that you can do that take up very little of your time, but have such a big impact on us in our fundraising efforts and what we do.”

Leshak reiterated the same message.

“This is like so little time, but so much meaning,” Leshak said.

Lainey Teeters ended by describing why, out of all the available clubs, she chose to join Make-A-Wish her freshman year.

“I think it’s important because you really do make a direct impact on these kids’ lives,” Teeters said. “In the end, like that is something they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives.”

You can contact Kelsey Quint at kquint@nd.edu

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ND club aims to build Mars rover

A newly formed Notre Dame student group is dedicated to building a fully functioning Mars rover from scratch. The Domer Rover club hopes to compete in the University Rover Challenge. The competition, held annually at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) near Hanksville, Utah, focuses on each step of the learning process along the way.

The founding members are sophomores Dorothy Crumlish, Matthew Egan, Sean Egan and Griffin Vrdolyak. Crumlish, a mechanical engineering major originally from South Bend, is president of the club. “I was sort of the one who brought it to the table, and then took the lead on it,” she said. 

Across the country, schools like the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Brigham Young University and the University of Michigan, the reigning champions, have official Mars rover clubs dedicated to competing in the University Rover Challenge. The group saw these other schools and thought to bring the idea to Notre Dame. 

They began to organize the club at the end of last fall semester and continued to meet once a week throughout the following spring, sorting through administrative logistics like funding and coordination with SAO. “We’re not an official club yet,” Sean Egan, a mechanical engineering major, said. “But if you’re interested, there’s a role for you.” 

This semester they have met often with their advisor Paul Rumbach, an associate teaching professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, and looked at smaller models of rovers. Soon they will split into teams and start building their own rover from scratch. The group has access to 3D printers through the College of Engineering and can print the necessary parts. 

“It’s going to be a lot of hands-on stuff,” Vrdolyak, also a mechanical engineering major, said. No prior experience building rovers is necessary to be a part of the club, he said. “We’re gonna be learning along with everyone else, and we think it’s a great opportunity to explore a part of engineering that a lot of people don’t get to see,” Vrdolyak said.

In the competition, the rover has four missions it must successfully complete. The first is the science mission, where part of the rover’s job is to “collect soil samples and analyze them for life,” Crumlish said. The extreme retrieval and delivery mission requires the rover to navigate irregular terrain, as if it were on Mars, and deliver something to the “astronaut.” The equipment servicing mission tests the rover’s ability to perform “dexterous” operations, including typing on a keyboard, flipping switches and fixing various objects, she said. The last is the autonomous navigation mission, where the rover must go through a series of different gates, testing its capability to navigate a challenging environment on its own.

There are multiple stages of judging before making it to the competition in Utah. The preliminary design review is due this December, and a system acceptance review is due in March 2023. The system acceptance review consists of a video sent to the Mars Society, which runs the competition, of the rover doing all four missions. The Mars society then picks around 30 to 40 teams to continue on to the final competition, currently set to take place in June 2023. 

Though the competition is the ultimate end goal, right now, the club is focused on the learning process. This semester they hope to actually build a rover, even if it isn’t to full scale. Once the rover is built, it will be given a name. “We all have some ideas,” Crumlish said.

“Our goal for this year is basically just to learn as much about the design process and the manufacturing process of building a Mars rover,” Vrdolyak said. “And then, you know, a few years down the road, maybe before I graduate, we can win it all and finally beat Michigan.”