Building awareness

By Abby Rhodes
September 29, 2011

When it comes to building a structurally sound cardboard shack, veteran Shack-a-Thon participants know it’s all about the cardboard tubes. From teepee-style to basic square-shaped homes and even a pseudo-igloo, long, hollow tubes anchored a variety of temporary dwellings erected on Olin Quad Sept. 28 for Bradley’s annual Habitat for Humanity fundraiser.

“The event is about raising awareness about homelessness and what it’s like to live without a home and all the luxuries within it,” said Cassandra Wagner ’12, fundraising coordinator for Bradley’s Habitat for Humanity chapter. “The other purpose is to raise money for our organization so we can help the Peoria Habitat affiliate build homes for local families in need.”

This year 29 student groups spent 24 hours building and residing in their cardboard creations. For many of them, the planning started weeks ago with blueprints and a growing collection of cardboard in various sizes and shapes. Each year the structures get a little bigger, a little sturdier and a great bit homier. Couches, easy chairs and area rugs have become standard amenities, while newer features include snazzy interior decorating, Internet access for laptops and electricity.

As the conditions become more and more lavish, the point of the exercise isn’t lost on students. Despite efforts toward comfort, spending even one night under tenuous shelter reveals the difficulty homeless people face every day.

“At least one person from each group must stay in their shack through the night, and it does get cold,” Wagner said. “One year it rained, so it was interesting to see which construction methods held up to the water.”

With no rain in the forecast for this year’s event, members of Delta Upsilon men’s fraternity focused on aesthetics rather than practicality. Their igloo-shaped shack probably wouldn’t withstand rain or arctic temperatures, but drew plenty of attention from passersby.

“We participate every year and notice that most people do a basic square or teepee, so we wanted to go a little more abstract this year,” said Michael Pritchard ’14, the fraternity’s chapter relations officer. “Some of our freshmen came out early to snag us a good spot and we’ve been working on home improvement all day.”

The Shack-a-Thon is one of hundreds of philanthropic events sponsored by campus student groups every year. Bradley students donate a combined 46,500 hours of community service annually.