Lynn University unites for a Day of Caring on first anniversary of Haiti earthquake
Published Jan. 13, 2011
- Day of Caring Media Kit
- Photographs of the Knights Unite Day of Caring
- Photographs of the Remembrance Plaza
At 4:53 p.m. on Jan. 12, 2011, the Lynn community stood at the heart of campus for a moment of silence to note the one-year anniversary of the devastating Haitian earthquake that took the lives of four Lynn University students and two professors. Professors Richard Bruno and Patrick Hartwick, along with students Stephanie Crispinelli, Britney Gengel, Christine Gianacaci and Courtney Hayes, traveled with eight other students on a "Journey of Hope to Haiti" January Term class to find, feed and focus on the poor of that nation.
But rather than dwell on that moment in time, this Jan. 12 Lynn University provided opportunities for students, staff and faculty to actually live the legacy of the six who died fulfilling the university’s mission of international education and service learning, during Lynn's first annual Knights Unite Day of Caring.
“I cannot think of a better way to carry on their legacies than to commit today to a day of service,” President Kevin M. Ross told a large, enthusiastic group of students, faculty and staff gathered early that morning in the Lynn Student Center. “I am so proud of our campus and all of you for taking the time to give back to our local and global community.” Then, he delivered the charge: “Please live today in the spirit of those who were lost and have an impactful day.”
Caring in action
The Student Center then came alive with activity as the various groups assembled for their projects. On a nearby patio, Professor Anna Krift rallied students and staff members for a beach clean-up with the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton. “Remember, every little piece of trash you pick up counts,” she told them. “Otherwise, turtles and fish can consume it, and it can end up in our stomachs.”
Another group lined up for their assignments with Help One of Our Own—Lynn’s effort to enable its Haitian maintenance and housekeeping staff members to take the day off and spend it with friends and family. Volunteers took on duties to keep the campus clean and orderly for the day.
Haiti-born Yanatha Desouvre, a support technician in Lynn’s IT department, jumped at the chance. “I could have taken the day off, but I chose this one because I wanted to help others who have relatives in Haiti, too.” Desouvre, who moved to the United States at the age of 3, lost a cousin in the earthquake. Just days ago, on Jan. 6, he finally learned that another cousin his family had lost track of was alive and well. “Hearing such good news was a great way to start the year,” he said.
In the Student Center lobby, a photo slideshow displayed images of smiling Journey of Hope class members visiting orphanages and schools. Professor Sindee Kirker’s daughter, Sami, sold her tie-dyed t-shirts and bracelets to benefit Food For The Poor. And students, faculty and staff wrote their own messages of hope on large colorful posters. AnaYah Miller, a junior from the Bahamas, expressed her sentiments: “Thank you for your life and being a gift to the world. May your love, dedication and selflessness inspire us all.”
Nearby in the Green Center, about 150 students, faculty and staff decked out in their Knights Unite t-shirts looked very much like the “hairnet brigade.” The swift assembly lines at six long tables diligently poured rice into baggies and managed to pack 30,000 meals in under three hours (10,000 above their original goal) for the Feeding Children Everywhere organization.
All told, Lynn community members participated in more than a dozen projects, on and off campus, among them, making sandwiches for after-school programs, painting homes of those less fortunate, building homes for the poor and hosting a spring training game for disabled children. See more pictures from the Knights Unite Day of Caring.
A place of remembrance
After championing that spirit of volunteerism and community service, the university community came together for the public announcement and unveiling of the plans for a permanent tribute to those lost, the Lynn University Remembrance Plaza.
“We learned from them to go where needed, to do what needs to be done and to make a difference,” President Ross said.
Located at the heart of campus and bordering one of Lynn’s lakes, the plaza will combine symbolic elements of light, water, stone and trees and will be a place of remembrance, reflection and inspiration. In particular, the memorial will include six prisms shimmering with light representing each of the lost individuals; a waterfall that will cascade onto six steps also representing the six and leading to the lake; a relief map of Haiti including the story of the Journey of Hope; and the Royal Palm, the national tree of Haiti.
The Remembrance Plaza was designed by architect Luis Sousa, who also designed Lynn’s Perper Plaza and Perper Tennis Complex. Sousa remarked that he wanted to commemorate the past while being inspired by the future. “The plaza embodies the six who were lost while allowing others to reflect.”
John and Jean Gianacaci, parents of Christine, were among those present to witness the unveiling. Said John Gianacaci, “We stand here today representing our daughter and the three other daughters. We just want to say how proud we are of Lynn University in what they’ve done not only with this memorial, but also this day of remembrance and service throughout the community. We do believe that it is not just one day, but it will be every day.”
After the dramatic unveiling, amidst the luminaries lining the Perper Plaza, a hushed crowd of hundreds of students, faculty, staff and special guests bowed their heads, listened to the six chimes, and quietly remembered the moment in time one year ago when the earthquake struck and forever changed lives at Lynn.
Then, befitting the outpouring of hard work and goodwill, the day ended on a triumphant note with a Celebration of Life featuring Haitian food, arts and music.
The Lynn University Remembrance Plaza will serve as a place to remember and honor the legacy of those who served on the 2010 Journey of Hope to Haiti. As of the plaza’s announcement, $276,000 of the $650,000 required for the project had been raised. To donate, send your gift to the Lynn University Office of Development, 3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton, FL 33431, call 561-237-7875 or visit our.lynn.edu/remembranceplaza.