Dec. 13, 2018

'Tis the Season: Batten Students Know How to Give Back

The Batten School is embracing this holiday season by recognizing individuals, organizations, and projects that are making a positive impact in the world. Ways to support each cause will be included at the end of every story.

In the midst of finals frenzy, Batten students are coming together to make the holidays a little merrier for others in Charlottesville and across the country. Last Friday, Dec. 7, the Batten Undergraduate Council (BUC) hosted a holiday party at the Charlottesville Boys and Girls Club at Buford Middle School. 

During the party, held annually by the BUC, activities ranged from a holiday-themed game of BINGO to face-painting to a cookie decorating workshop to an inventive slant on ice-fishing—minus the fish, plus candy canes.

Batten students are no strangers to the Charlottesville Boys and Girls Club. Earlier this semester, as many UVA students enjoyed their last day of summer, Batten students participated in Batten Builds, a community service project that takes place every year before the beginning of the fall semester.

Emily Drake (BA ’19), one of the primary organizers of the party (as well as this year’s Batten Builds), said Batten is about implementing positive change in the community. Together with Caroline Dorsey (BA ’19) and Alec Tekamp (BA ’19), Drake and her team managed to put together a thoughtful and generous holiday party before the onset of grueling final exams.

“The Boys and Girls Club part is one of my favorite events put on by BUC,” said Tekamp. “It gives us [Batten students] an opportunity to take a step back from the stress of school and to give back to the Charlottesville community. This party allows us to put our school work in perspective and spend time with others during this holiday season.”

Batten undergraduate students, however, do not have a monopoly on merry-making. Batten graduate students are also giving back this holiday season through various activities, including the Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign.

Spearheaded this year by Jack DiMatteo (MPP ’19), the campaign recognizes the work and sacrifice of American veterans. DiMatteo took the opportunity to hold a card workshop during the holiday party at the Boys and Girls Club.

“As the holiday season approaches, we reflect on a year of blessings and enjoy the time that we can spend with our families and friends. Yet as we celebrate, many of our veterans are spending the holidays in the hospital,” said DiMatteo. “These heroes have made great sacrifices for our freedom and this December, we want to show our gratitude through a small but meaningful gesture: delivering handwritten cards to veterans who will be in VA hospitals during the holiday season.”

Last year, Batten’s Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign managed to collect 400 handwritten cards for veterans. “When we delivered them, the veterans were deeply moved by the kindness of students who were thinking of them and spreading the joy of the holiday season,” said DiMatteo. “This year, our goal is to collect 1,000 cards.”

Originally a Red Cross program to spread cheer to American servicemen stationed abroad, Holiday Mail for Heroes was discontinued several years ago. Last year, it was brought back—with the help from students like DiMatteo—as a project to spread the joy of the holiday season to veterans in VA hospitals here in the United States.

DiMatteo is co-director of the initiative and has led the collection efforts at UVA and in his home state of Illinois. Batten alum Matt Tully (MPP ’18) is the other co-director, leading collection efforts in Washington D.C., Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

“Holiday Mail for Heroes would not be possible without the support we receive from the Batten Graduate Council, Batten professors, and students in both the undergraduate and graduate programs who have written so many thoughtful cards for our veterans.” said DiMatteo.

Currently, DiMatteo and his cohorts are in the process of collecting as many cards as possible before the semester ends. They plan to deliver cards to VA hospitals in Washington D.C., Illinois, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

Learn more about the Charlottesville Boys and Girls Club and find out how to get involved by visiting their website.  To support the Holiday Mail for Heroes initiative, contact Jack DiMatteo at jd5cj@virginia.edu.