The Quiet Heroes

Sometimes you simply have to reset. 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, November and December were months in the calendar when the LMU Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement sponsored the Global Day of Service project — day-long activities in which alumni joined together in service projects in cities around the country. In 2019, just weeks before coronavirus outbreak in the United States, alumni participated in events that reached from Orange County and Los Angeles to Boise, Atlanta and New York.

In 2020, it was a different story: The pandemic forced the postponement of Global Day of Service. Public health guidelines made many public gatherings impossible, says Leticia Vidal, assistant director of Alumni and Parent Engagement.

But in late 2021, Vidal and her colleagues reset: They launched Lion Acts of Service. Shifting the spotlight, they highlighted LMU community members already deeply involved in service to their communities. “We wanted to come up with another method that could still accomplish the goal of promoting service to the community,” Vidal says, “but wouldn’t place people at additional risk.”

Vidal’s office developed a dedicated webpage, an online hub, to collect inspiring stories of alumni and the organizations they support: Sandra Fuchs ’86, for example, devotes her time to Musical Miracles, which offers music and art classes to underrepresented youth drawn to performing and visual arts. Stacy Annette Burns ’90, ’92 helps the J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center make therapeutic horse-riding opportunities available to people with disabilities. Troy Varenchik ’97 raises funds for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation.

But Lion Acts of Service also created a mechanism to extend the opportunities for service found at the site. The webpage not only displays stories of alumni, it also includes links to the organizations themselves, encouraging others to join in. Last, the page provided a form through which alumni and others could nominate peers whose commitments could also others to do the same.

Offering the ability to nominate others, says Vidal, was as important as shedding light in the first place. “The purpose is not just to highlight those folks,” she explains, “but through them and their work to inspire others to consider doing something similar.”

What will be possible in 2022 — what public health guidelines will permit months from now — remains to be seen. But Vidal hopes to continue telling stories of people doing good things, she says.

“There are so many quiet heroes who are doing important work.”

The Gardener 

Steven Rude ’88, M.A. ’91 helped create an accessible garden for children with special needs at an L.A.-based Special Education school. Rude describes the work: Nearly all the school’s students are confined to wheelchairs and walkers, he says, and have significant emotional and intellectual delays. “We will create a space that will offer a wide range of sensory experiences. This garden will invite the student to touch, smell, see, listen and actively experience the garden with all senses.”

Second Chance

Erika Cuellar ’08 and Richard Garcia ’M.A.10 founded Alma Backyard Farms to increase urban farms in Los Angeles and give people who have been incarcerated a chance to reclaim their lives and become caretakers of their communities by helping build food-producing gardens in Los Angeles.

Platform Builder

Young tennis players wanted to raise money for charity organizations when they played and competed. They couldn’t find an organization to provide the overarching structure, Carlos Cruz-Aedo ’86, MBA ’92 helped them build their own fundraising platform. “When I told them that I could not find one org that does that they said that we should start one ourselves. So we did.”

To learn more about Lion Acts of Service, go to here.