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Lehigh hosts Family Day of Service

The Family Day of Service on Saturday, April 14 will both honor the inauguration of Lehigh’s 13th president, Alice P. Gast, and underscore the strong partnership between the university and the community that surrounds it, organizers say.

“We are planning a diverse roster of experiences that will engage people of all ages, and involve Lehigh students, faculty and staff with residents of the South Side community,” says Dale Kochard, the university’s executive director of regional and community affairs. “Through these events, we’re celebrating the community spirit we all share.”

Activities will kick off from Tamerler Courtyard next to the Zoellner Arts Center for a symbolic run/walk through the city and the Lehigh campus. A community walk will be led by Lehigh’s newly inaugurated president. That will be followed by a competitive 5K run, which will raise money to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of South Bethlehem. This challenging course across the hills of South Bethlehem will test even the heartiest of runners.

The Lehigh Valley Road Runners will be the official timers for the race and Bart Yasso, Race and Event Promotion Director for Runner's World magazine, is lending a hand to ensure that the race will be a success.

While the walkers and runners are experiencing South Bethlehem, a number of races for kids from ages 5 to 12 will take place in the Tamerler Courtyard quad. A “closing ceremony” will cap the day’s first phase of activities.

Lehigh Community Service Office’s annual “Spring Fling” activities will begin the next round of events with a traditional egg hunt for children from local elementary schools on the University Center lawn. President Gast will cut the ribbon, releasing dozens of kids to start the egg hunt.

Arts, crafts and educational activities will fill the day for the myriad of youngsters who will “experience” Lehigh, some of them for the first time. There will be kid-friendly activities such as egg-dyeing, spin art, make-your-own beaded name bracelets, food crafts, a moon bounce and the “adoption” of live baby chicks for one-hour intervals.

A balloon artist will roam the grounds of the Spring Fling event while a deejay provides musical selections from noon to 3 p.m.

For older children, Spring Fling events will include a scavenger hunt, a photo sticker booth, a “create your own street sign” and airbrush artists. Parents will also be entertained by a variety of events, which will include cooking classes.

Volunteers for this event will be drawn from various student organizations, contributing to what is expected to be the largest Spring Fling event in university history, says Allison Heinly, student coordinator for Spring Fling.

The day takes a slightly different turn with the dedication of a community garden in Martin Luther King Park on Carlton Avenue. Community gardens can serve a variety of purposes, from simply beautifying the neighborhood, to providing exercise and enjoyment of an outdoor activity, to the practical purpose of providing fresh produce for the participants.

Gast, who will maintain a plot in this garden, will officially dedicate the garden, which is expected to serve as a catalyst for further community involvement between the university and residents of South Bethlehem. Scott Meyer, editor of Organic Gardening magazine, is an advisor on the garden and will give a short talk on organic gardening at the dedication.

Gast also will test her artistic side by participating in the creation of a public mural and mosaic along the Bethlehem Greenway as a symbol of Lehigh’s commitment to the community. Artwork for the mosaic is being created by Community Artists of Bethlehem (CAB), who have partnered with Lehigh on the project.

The project has created extraordinary learning opportunities for Lehigh students. Approximately 20 students currently taking the Religion Studies course REL 144 (ART 144) “Raw Vision: Creativity and Ecstasy in the Work of Shamans, Mystics, and Artist Outsiders,” are working with CAB to discover ways in which a mural art project builds community.

The students involved in the project are inspired by the work of these local artists, says Silagh White, administrative director of ArtsLehigh, the all-university program designed to link arts, learning and life.

“It is not just the shared vision of art on the side of a building facing the campus, but in their belief that a vibrant community engages in civic relationships,” White says.

(Visit the CAB Web site to learn more about CAB and the mural project.)

“This day will truly be a testimony to the strong relationship that Lehigh University and Bethlehem have built over the years and will be a fitting tribute to President Gast in the celebration of her inauguration,” says Kochard, who encourages those interested to continue to check back on the Family Day Web site for more details.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Thursday, March 01, 2007

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