Not only does a ticket to the dinner get you a plate and the opportunity to listen to speakers such as Brady Hoke, Mike Martin, Lloyd Carr, and Dhani Jones, but it also benefits a great student organization that has its sights set on making a difference not only in the UofM community, but all around Ann Arbor.
I decided to ask Mark Wilhelm of A+R a few questions about the group's origins, its work, and since this is a Michigan sports website first and foremost, what the members themselves loved about Michigan athletics.
Tell me about how A+R got started? What was the inspriration for the group?
In 2009, a group of scholarship recipients at the University of Michigan joined forces to give back to the University and the Ann Arbor community. Grateful for the gifts they had received, they sought to replenish the cycle of giving from which they benefitted, and they believed in combining their individual efforts to make a bigger impact.
Appreciate + Reciprocate's members decided to channel their efforts through fundraising for the College of LSA Emergency Student Aid Fund. This fund provides support to University of Michigan students in precarious home situations who are at risk out of dropping out of school due to financial constraints. Members of Appreciate + Reciprocate chose to give to the Emergency Student Aid Fund because of their belief that no student should be denied a Michigan education merely due to financial constraints. Bucketing on street corners and holding bake sales in between classes, Appreciate + Reciprocate's fundraising efforts started humbly.
As Appreciate + Reciprocate grew in membership, its vision grew as well. Today, Appreciate + Reciprocate has broadened its range of activities to include community-building events for scholarship recipients and volunteering partnerships with Ann Arbor organizations. Yet, the heart of Appreciate + Reciprocate continues to be raising emergency scholarship funds for their peers in need.
What kind of other volunteer work does A+R do specifically?
Appreciate + Reciprocate has partnered with several organizations working in the Ann Arbor community. A+R members currently volunteer with:
Sunrise Assisted Living - Members work with the elderly residents by serving snacks and playing games with them. Some of the residents' favorites include euchre and hangman.
826 Michigan - Members help children at writing workshops or developing their own stories as well as tutoring children in other subjects. Some members have volunteered at 826 Michigan's Friday field trips, which brings in a classroom from an area school to do a writing workshop in a unique way.
Members have also served the local community by working with Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation, decorating various community centers and helping out at several activities put on by them. A+R has volunteered sorting used goods at the Ann Arbor ReUse Recycle Center.
In what ways would the group like to expand its mission in the coming years?
On the horizon, Appreciate + Reciprocate hopes to partner with other student groups on campus for community-building and fundraising events. In this way, members hope to spread the notion of "appreciating and reciprocating" for the opportunities we all receive as members of the University of Michigan community.
Is this the first fundraising dinner that A+R has hosted? If not, what were past dinners like? We're you able to secure any big guest speakers in the past? How did this year's dinner come about?
This is actually our second annual benefit dinner. Last year, we had an idea to create an event that would engage and interest students, as well as raise money for the LSA Emergency Student Aid Fund.
The dinner was held in the Alumni Center with many local restaurants donating food for what amounted to a huge buffet. Several Michigan student performance groups provided entertainment, and Athletic Director Dave Brandon rounded out the night speaking about his own extraordinary experiences with the University of Michigan.
This year, we decided to build upon the success of our first benefit dinner, but we certainly had some help along the way. Last fall, Chad Williamson, the CEO for Dhani Jones' Bowtie Cause, was in Ann Arbor meeting with several different University members. Appreciate + Reciprocate was fortunate enough to have an hour with Mr. Williamson to talk about student philanthropy.
At this meeting, we mentioned to Mr. Williamson our plans for a larger benefit dinner, with our goal as having Coach Hoke speak. He listened patiently, and then asked if we had contacted Mike Martin about speaking yet. Mr. Williamson offered to put us in contact with Mike, and from there, ideas for the dinner took off. Now, through the generosity and assistance of many, many individuals in the University of Michigan community, we are able to hold this great event for such a worthy cause.
(I asked each of A+R's board members for a response to this last question.)
What has been the best Michigan sports moment that you have witnessed as a student?
"I will never forget rushing the field. The final game of the 2011 football season against OSU was a perfect way to cap the regular season. We showed what Michigan football was made of and OSU had no excuses anymore. I was crossing my fingers until the very end and I wasn't disappointed at all. Victory over our rivals. There was so much energy in the stadium, especially as the first couple of rows started pouring onto the field. Jumping onto the field, being surrounded by maize and blue and touching the M on the 50 yard line are all priceless experiences that I wouldn't trade for the world. Michigan football is back and I'm so excited for next season."
- Alaina, VP of Fundraising
"Final 2 minutes of the 2011 Michigan vs. Notre Dame game!"
- Sara, President
"I'm proud to say that there were several sports moments I will always remember from my senior year here at the University, (including our win against Notre Dame under the lights!) but rushing the field in the Big House after beating OSU for the first time since I've been here definitely sticks out. I'm not going to lie and say I know a whole lot about sports, but standing there, chanting "It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine!" together with my fellow students who also bleed blue, proved to me that you don't have to be a sports buff to love Michigan sports. That atmosphere was electric and unforgettable."
- Linda, Secretary
"Being at the Under the Lights game against Notre Dame has been the best Michigan sports moment of my life. To be a part of the first night game at Michigan Stadium is a memory I will never forget. Standing alongside 114,804 fans singing The Victors after coming back to win the game, under the lights, will always stand out in my mind."
- Meredith, VP of Community Service
"The University of Michigan loves football; no one can question its importance. But almost lost in the resurgence of Michigan Football are the strides of the Michigan Men's Basketball program. I am a senior this year, and I can remember, in the fall of 2008 when the Athletic Department would give away tickets, pizza, and drinks to students. In short, it was a bribe to come to a basketball game."
"Last year, I was lucky enough to make the trip to East Lansing for the basketball game against Michigan State. Honestly, most of the game for me is a blur. I remember ups and downs, free throws, some hard fought rebounds and of course the Colton Christian jumper as the shot clock expired. But what stood out most to me (and, to be quite honest, to most Michigan fans) was a Stu Douglass three pointer to seal the game. Michigan's season did not rest on that shot, but anyone in the Breslin Center that day could tell you that with Stu's three, the Athletic Department would not have to bribe students to come to games. Michigan Basketball had returned. "
- Mark Wilhelm, Benefit Dinner Chair
I would like to thank Mark for taking the time to answer my questions, and I urge to you please support this group in any way that you can. Whether it is buying a ticket to the fundraising dinner later this month, or simply donating a few dollars to the LSA Student Emergency Aid Fund, any little bit helps.
For more information about Appreciate + Reciprocate, please visit its website.