Colleges & Campus

A Day to Make a Difference

Community has always been at the core of the annual UCF Day of Giving, and this year it coincides with #407 Day, a day Orange County has proclaimed to encourage financial support in Central Florida on April 7. At UCF, we’ve seen how one day of generosity can impact the entire campus of Knights: the marching band, the athletic department, research labs and first-generation students. During UCF’s three previous Days of Giving, more than 8,000 donors joined the 24-hour movement — contributing a total of nearly $1.3 million.

The donations have come from every time zone — Hawaii, Alaska, California, Colorado, Nebraska and New York — and from every walk of life — engineers, artists, business executives and pastors. The donors are UCF faculty and administrators. They’re parents of students and parents of parents. They include alumni from the class of ’73 and future alumni from the class of 2023.

This year’s goal is 5,000 donors. Join the celebration and make a gift at dayofgiving.ucf.edu.

Here’s an idea. Last year, 10 alums from around the U.S. provided what others could use as a template during the UCF Day of Giving. They reconnected online, formed a team, and they created a special fund to support students from underrepresented communities.

“We don’t want [finances] to stand in the way of those students living out what was the greatest four years of learning for us,” says Bianca Deslouches ’11.

As philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott noted when she donated $40 million to UCF last year: “Generosity is generative. Sharing makes more.” A recent study from the University of Bristol in England confirms that, yes, giving is contagious, just look at the evidence here at UCF.

During the first UCF Day of Giving in 2018, donors gave $157,000. In 2021, the giving more than quintupled to $835,000. Hundreds of gifts were symbolic, such as $20.21, and at least one was enormous, including a $250,000 gift from Jessica Blume ’80 and her husband, Ken, who wanted to support a scholarship program for first-generation business students.

The spirit of generosity moved more than 3,000 gifts in 2021 — 60% more than in 2018 — to go online to lift others up. Among them, 92 people rallied behind the Joyce DeGennaro Memorial Scholarship, in honor of the UCF alum and instructor who taught the importance of empathy to her nursing students.

“I will absolutely be a more caring nurse, thanks to her,” says alum Megan Donnelly ’13 ’21. She’s expanding DeGennaro’s legacy. And, like every donor on UCF Day of Giving, she’s living out DeGennaro’s most important lesson: Do unto others … .

That’s the reason another 80 people gave last year to what is quickly becoming a cornerstone of selflessness at UCF — Limbitless Solutions. UCF alum Albert Manero ’12 ’14MS ’16PhD cofounded Limbitless with two classmates, John Sparkman ’13 ’15MS and Dominique Courbin ’18, in 2014. Their goal at the time exemplifies the spirit of giving: to design, create and give bionic arms to children with limb differences — free of charge. They used $200 of their own money to take the first Limbitless arm from concept to reality for a 6-year-old boy who’d never known what it was like to hug with two arms. Limbitless now has an entire community of Knights behind their work.

“We have people everywhere,” Manero says of the recently opened 6,000-square-foot facility in Research Park, where 40 undergraduates come to learn and lend expertise in fields ranging from biology and graphic art to psychology, theater and engineering.

“The donations from UCF Day of Giving have allowed us to bring in more interns and amplify what we do,” Manero says. “Everyone — the donors, the students, the families who we help — becomes part of a robust story.”

This is what philanthropy can do. It makes dreams come true.”

Albert Manero ’12 ’14MS ’16PhD

To summarize: More donations means more interns. More interns means more impact. More impact means empowering more people to reach their potential.

During her internship Julia Barry ’21 soldered parts, assembled arms and showed recipients how to use their bionic arms. In the process, her own worldview changed.

“I’ll never forget the connection I felt when a girl who’d received a bionic arm came to the lab on my birthday and gave me a hug,” Barry says. “Because of that, as an engineer, I’ll always think about the person on the receiving end of whatever I’m doing.”

Barry makes perhaps the most important point of all. For someone — actually, a lot of people — April 7 will signify a day of receiving.

“This is what philanthropy can do,” Manero says. “It makes dreams come true.”

Join the celebration and make a gift April 7 at dayofgiving.ucf.edu.

Robert Stephens
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Tags: Day of Giving

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