The School of Communication, Media and Journalism and Kean TV threw a pie-throwing and letter-writing fundraiser for the men and women serving in the armed forces, as well as for policemen, firefighters and paramedics during "A Letter Writing and Pie In The Face Extravaganza" Thursday, April 26.
From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., members of the Kean community joined the festivities as they lined up at tables with the help of students from professor Gina Gili's TV Studio Production class she teaches on Thursdays. For Gili, a tenured lecturer and lead Kean TV adviser, this class was different than the rest, as it featured the assistance of her students as they worked together to facilitate writing pads, writing utensils, and other tools to assist those who visited the tables placed outside of the Miron Student Center (MSC) front entrance, on the MSC Patio.
As students, faculty or anyone on campus walked by the table, students of the TV Studio Production class informed them on how writing a single letter to the troops, firefighters, policemen and women or any other service member contributed to helping Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages filled with entertainment, hygiene, and handmade items, non-perishable snacks, and personal letters of appreciation to U.S. Troops, First Responders, Veterans, Military Families, and Wounded Heroes and their Care Givers.
"We were able to get outside of the classroom and out of our TV studio and were able to work on something real-time," Gili said. "They were able to see everything that had happened and in the order that they needed to be in, whether that be in different positions, the times they were supposed to be in them, where they had to be and what they had to accomplish in them."
Whether they were just general "thank you for your service" letters, or more personal and particular salutes to family members serving overseas, delectable treats from a bake sale were earned by writing a single letter and dropping in a small manila envelope with the Operation Gratitude logo plastered on its outer fold.
Succulent chocolate and peanut butter brownies, cookies, cupcakes and delicious Oreo cheesecake popcorn, all made by the students of the TV Studio class, flew off of the table as the morning progressed. For the individuals who wished to support the cause as well as write their own sentimental letter, their monetary donations also went to Operation Gratitude, but it was not all for naught.
When the attendees of the table donated five dollars or more, they were presented with the opportunity to pie a dean, professor, or student from Gili's class. Professors available for a face full of pie were Johnathan Mercantini, Ph.D., the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts; Christopher Lynch, Ph.D., a tenured communication professor; and professor Allison Edgley, another member of the communication department.
Throughout the morning and into the afternoon, lines composed of students walking to and from class and others interested in the good cause offered their services by writing out thoughtful letters to those who sacrifice their safety and freedom for their country.
Additionally, the students who helped out to make the event go smoothly were a part of Kean TV, and as some students worked the tables, others had their cameras and phones out, filming the event in its entirety. Whether they were documenting the many written letters through live-streaming on Facebook Live or recording the charitable hilarity of the pies in the faces of the participating professors and students on Instagram Live, not one moment went unnoticed.
"This was a fantastic turnout. There were more students there than I expected to see. We had so much fun! It was an enjoyable time," Gili mentioned. "The Kean TV students worked the event as if they they were working an event filming and promoting on social media. The students from the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) also worked really hard to get all of the supplies and everything set up for the pie in the face. We got so many letters and raised a bunch of money for Operation Gratitude!"
A lot of letters were written, indeed. According to Gili herself, approximately 80 letters were written to the men and women actively serving in the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and other services meant to protect all American freedoms.
Johnathan Mercantini, one of the pieing volunteers for the afternoon, felt that an event like this was not only good for students and other members of the Kean family to participate in, but important for those who are serving and have served in the armed forces as it shows the care that college students show for those who truly deserve the support.
"I was really pleased with the turnout. I saw people texting their friends about this and I hoped that people were checking their social media accounts, while helping to bring more people out," Mercantini said. "We were glad to have other faculty members from the communications program that also participated as it was a great way to showcase the feeling that [Kean University] has and the atmosphere that we create, this positive and fun atmosphere that show how the faculty get involved with their students."
For more information on Operation Gratitude and additional ways to contribute to the organization, please visit their official website. Also for more information on Kean TV, contact Gina Gili at firstname.lastname@example.org.