Hundreds of students, faculty, and community members gathered Thursday evening to kick off the holiday season with an evening full of family friendly events at Valparaiso University.
The night began with the 4th Annual Jingle Jog Fun Run, followed by every endless trays of cookies and hot cocoa in Harre Union. As everyone anxiously awaited the tree lighting ceremony and firework show, all the VU families and other members of the local community participated in various wonderful Christmas traditions ranging from visits with Santa, family photo booth pics, and even cookie decorating.
Alpha Phi Omega organized the Jingle Jog, an annual tradition in which the service focused fraternity works on collecting donations for the local food pantry. Dozens of runners were able to choose between running one, two or three miles. Glow sticks and Santa hats were abound as students and professors completed the campus run. Fraternity sisters Riley Zimmer and Allison Whalan were out cheering on runners as they talked about why they took the lead on hosting the Jingle Jog.
“This is the 2nd event that we helped organize,” Whalan said. “It’s important for us to use this annual VU tree lighting celebration to give back to the community, which is why the registration fee is simply a non-perishable food item donation for the Hilltop House.”
“Alpha Phi Omega is group of people on campus who just like to help other people,” Zimmer explained. “We always coordinate the Jingle Jog with the tree lighting ceremony because it really helps everyone get into the Christmas spirit. We love being able to raise awareness on campus and celebrate the season while helping others.”
As the Jingle Jog wrapped up, dozens of students and families gathered inside to spread the holiday cheer. Children created unique cookie treats at the decorating station and shared their Christmas lists with Santa. Everyone enjoyed the trays full of holiday treats after posing on the decorated stage for a festive family photo.
Ryan Bye, Assistant Director of the Harre Union for Student Activities, was in attendance, enjoying the holiday atmosphere and the sense of community that filled the building.
“The annual tree lighting is Valparaiso University’s way of inviting the community in to celebrate the holiday season with us,” Bye said. “We have students, faculty and their families, and community members in attendance enjoying all of the activities. We always extend the invitation to anyone in the community who wants to celebrate with the many activities we organize. This event in particular is probably one of my favorite VU events of the year. It brings so many people together. Plus where else will you get to see fireworks at a tree lighting?!”
Valparaiso University student Justine Hohulin was also excited to celebrate the holiday season among her peers. She participated in all of the evening activities, including the Jingle Jog.
“I wanted to support the Alpha Phi Omega food drive and get into the holiday spirit at the tree lighting,” Hohulin stated. “Valpo is very tradition and family oriented. At the tree lighting, many students and faculty come together to get into the Christmas spirit before finals start and before the beginning of the new semester. It’s a tradition that all the students look forward to every year.”
As the evening came to an end, hundreds of attendees enjoyed the tree lighting and beautiful fireworks display. Everyone put all of their Christmas spirit and joy into singing carols around the tree. The annual event was a beautiful way for all of the VU families and the local community to join together in kicking off another wonderful holiday season.