Twin Cities show ‘KU Cares’ with spooky supply drive

Posted on Dec 10, 2019 in Alumni News and News

KU Cares Twin Cities supply drive

The third annual KU Cares Month of Service brought Jayhawks closer to the communities they call home. One of our favorite events comes from the Twin Cities Jayhawks.

When your doorbell rings on Halloween, you’re expected to answer with candy in hand. But when the Pence family shows up, it’s time to hit the pantry.

Stacy, c’10, and her husband Tyler, d’11, have spent their Halloween evenings for the past six years going door to door in their Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. Instead of candy, they collect donations for the St. Louis Park Emergency Program, which provides food, clothing and other assistance for those in need.

“My husband and I did the first trick or treat supply drive only on our block to meet neighbors and help a good cause,” Stacy says. “It was so popular that we decided to make it an entire neighborhood effort the following year.”

The scope of the night continued to grow the past two years as the all-call went out to other Jayhawks to help out as part of the KU Cares Month of Service.

“Generally, it is very well received,” Stacy says. “So many thank yous! Flyers are given to every home in advance so many people are ready with bags of donations. Others are surprised when an adult is knocking on their door on Halloween, but when we explain our cause they run to their kitchen to get something.”

As for the results? They’re spook-tacular:

“I couldn’t count the items as there are literally thousands that fill our entire living room. This year 1,705 pounds were donated, which brings our to-date total over 11,500. Pretty insane.”

Thanks again to all Jayhawks who participated in the third annual KU Cares Month of Service. Jayhawks can make a difference in their community anytime. Visit to learn how you can organize a KU Cares event in your network.

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Association programs, design and communications win regional honors

Posted on Jan 9, 2019 in Alumni News and News

Adams Alumni Center | CASE honors 2018
The Association and several other KU entities won regional honors in the annual competition of Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VI, which includes eight states.

The Association’s honors include:

Month of Service returns

For the second consecutive year, alumni donated their time and treasure for the Alumni Association’s KU Cares Month of Service campaign, which encourages Jayhawks nationwide to give back to their communities during the month of November. Nearly 350 volunteers—more than double last year’s participation—from 24 alumni networks generously gave more than 100 hours of service to:

  • Organize blood drives
  • Collect food, clothing and personal hygiene supplies
  • Prepare and serve meals for families in need
  • Restore and enhance neighborhood parks
  • Make sleeping bags for homeless individuals
  • Clean beaches in seaside communities
  • Gather pet supplies for local animal shelters
  • Raise money for national and local nonprofit organizations

Overall, the University community received 30 awards for programs, events and communications from the Office of Marketing Communications, KU Endowment, the KU Cancer Center, The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the William Allen White School of Journalism. The awards will be presented Jan. 15 at the annual CASE District VI conference in Denver.

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Jayhawks give back during second annual KU Cares Month of Service

Posted on Dec 3, 2018 in Alumni News and News

The second annual KU Cares Month of Service gave Jayhawks the chance to meet each other and support their communities at the same time. Alumni in 23 cities across the country organized 27 different events.

The KU Alumni Association set out to have participants share the spirit of the holidays by giving back to people in need.

Here’s a sample of the many awesome events that alumni network volunteers organized. Thanks again to all who participated!

Phoenix Jayhawks: Lunches for the homeless

KU alumni in Phoenix packed meals for people in need at St. Vincent De Paul’s “Hearts and Hands” event.

Phoenix volunteers | second annual KU Cares month of service

Twin Cities Jayhawks: Halloween Supply Drive

Minneapolis Jayhawks started the month of service a day early: a night early, to be exact. They partnered with the St. Louis Park Emergency Program to spend their Halloween forgoing candy and collecting supplies for a local homeless shelter instead.

Twin Cities Jayhawks | second annual KU Cares month of service

Portland Jayhawks: Oregon Food Bank

A small group made a big difference in Portland. Six Jayhawks showed their love for their city with two and a half hours of work leading to 455 packaged meals.

Portland Jayhawks |second annual KU Cares month of servicePortland Jayhawks | second annual KU Cares month of service

Milwaukee Jayhawks: Breakfast for military families

Area Jayhawks got to work to thank area veterans and their families by cooking breakfast at the the Fisher House, a temporary housing option for military families. Families stay at the house while their loved one receives care at the Medical Center.

Milwaukee Jayhawks | second annual KU Cares month of service

Denver Jayhawks: Watch party with a purpose

Local alumni started their watch party season with a purpose. The group collected more than 500 items for the St. Francis Center, a local homeless refuge.
Denver Jayhawks | second annual KU Cares month of service

KU Cares Month of Service may be over, but Jayhawks can get together to support their communities anytime! Visit the KU Cares page for more information, and reach out to your local network leaders to organize an event in your area.

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Alumni Association presents check to KU Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund

Posted on Jan 29, 2018 in Alumni News and News

KU Alumni Association presents a check for $5,500 to KU's Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund at the Jan. 27 KU basketball game. | Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund
Heath Peterson, president of the KU Alumni Association, presented a check to KU’s Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund at halftime of the Jan. 27 KU men’s basketball game. The check represented a portion of membership dues during KU Cares Month of Service in November. The announcement read at halftime is below. Thank you to everyone who participated in KU Cares Month of Service.

“The KU Alumni Association is proud to share the results of its first KU Cares Month of Service, a new campaign encouraging Jayhawks to give back to their communities. Last November, more than 130 volunteers from 16 alumni networks nationwide donated their time and treasure to help those in need.

In addition, the Association donated $5,500 in membership dues in November to the Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund, which provides financial assistance to military service members, veterans, primary caregivers and surviving spouses or children who want to attend KU.

Please join us in welcoming Alumni Association President Heath Peterson as he presents a check to KU alumnus and retired Marine Corps colonel Mike Denning, director of KU’s office of graduate military studies and president of the KU Veterans Alumni Network. With Mike is Maria Santiago, a pre-engineering student who served as a Marine in 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California, and her daughter, Ashley. Maria deployed to Iraq in 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom when Ashley was only 9 months old. Maria is one of eight KU students to receive a Wounded Warrior Scholarship for the 2017-’18 academic year.”

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Jayhawks give back during inaugural KU Cares Month of Service

Posted on Dec 20, 2017 in Alumni News and News

KU Cares Month of Service
After 19 different events in 16 different cities, the first KU Cares Month of Service brought Jayhawks closer to the communities they call home.

The KU Alumni Association set out to have participants in the Month of Service share the spirit of Thanksgiving by giving back, both in their networks and in the KU community.

A portion of all membership dues collected during the month of November was earmarked for the Wounded Warrior scholarship fund. Thanks to the generosity of those who joined, renewed, or donated, more than $5,500 will be given to the scholarship fund that helps qualified veterans and their family pursue their education at KU.

Continuing on the theme of an earlier post, we wanted to highlight some of the events where Jayhawks made a difference.

Wichita: Ronald McDonald House

Members of the Wichita Jayhawk Network came together to help those staying in the Ronald McDonald house. Volunteers brought, prepared and served dinner to the families with children in nearby hospitals.

Milwaukee: Fill the Freezer

Local KU alumni joined forces with the United Way to fight hunger at the first annual “Fill the Freezer” event. Network leader Jay Craig, b’85 g’87, brought area Jayhawk volunteers together with local chefs to prepare frozen meals for those in transitional housing and family support programs.

Phoenix: St. Vincent De Paul’s Watkins Kitchen

More than 15 Jayhawks gave their Saturday morning to prepare meals for the homeless at St. Vincent De Paul’s Watkins Kitchen. Phoenix Network Leader Chris Colyer, b’04 l’09, thanked everyone for representing KU and showing compassion for their community.

San Antonio: Haven for Hope

Area alumni put on their Jayhawk gear, along with aprons and gloves, and served food to those in need in downtown San Antonio. Network leader Morgan Bertram, d’02, thanked those who helped feed 383 at Haven for Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the homeless find a new beginning.

While the KU Cares Month of Service is over, Jayhawks can get together to give time and talents to their communities anytime! Visit the KU Cares page for more information, and reach out to your local network leaders. View our Flickr album of these events and more from the KU Cares Month of Service:


-Ryan Camenzind

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From Feeding America to Friends of Trees: The KU Cares Month of Service begins

Posted on Nov 21, 2017 in Alumni News and News

As the KU Cares Month of Service continues, the pictures and stories from the events are rolling in. We’re sharing a few from the first events to show how Jayhawks are making a difference in their communities. Visit the KU Cares Month of Service homepage to learn how you can participate in giving back to those in need.

Portland: Friends of Trees

The Portland Jayhawks joined forces with other volunteers on a misty Saturday afternoon to plant more than 200 trees in southeast Portland. Network volunteer Meg Viezbicke, c’97, organized the event and praised Friends of Trees for helping ensure the Jayhawks could be involved. Friends of Trees, a local nonprofit, aims to to inspire community stewardship of the area’s urban forest by planting and caring for trees in both neighborhoods and green spaces.

Seattle: Food Lifeline

Network volunteer Deanna Marks, b’16 e’16, brought together 10 Seattle Jayhawks who donned aprons and hairnets over their KU gear and packed 1,420 meals for their community at Food Lifeline, a nonprofit that provides meals to residents of Western Washington. Food Lifeline is a member of Feeding America, a nationwide network of over 200 food banks.

Tampa Bay: Feeding America

The Tampa Bay ’Hawks also partnered with Feeding America by collecting over 100 pounds of food. Network leader Chris Longino, b’06, thanked those who brought donations to their watch site for football and basketball watch parties. “I am always impressed with the generosity and goodwill of the Jayhawk Nation,” Longino said. “Hopefully, we can plan many future opportunities for our KU group to give back to our adopted Tampa Bay community.”

San Diego: Sunset Cliffs beach cleanup

San Diego Jayhawks spent a Saturday morning by the ocean, but instead of lounging in the sun they opted to beautify the beach. Network volunteer Stephanie Shehi, b’86, partnered with the San Diego Coastkeeper organization, which helps keep Sunset Cliffs Park clean and beautiful for the community. The network picked up 20 pounds of trash, enjoyed stunning views, and heard lots of “Rock Chalks” from bystanders.

The easiest way to participate in the KU Cares Month of Service is to join or renew your Alumni Association membership. During the month of November, a portion of all dues will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund. Join, renew, or upgrade your membership to participate in this initiative!

-Ryan Camenzind

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Eight KU students named recipients of Wounded Warrior Scholarship

Posted on Oct 13, 2017 in Alumni News and News

KU Wounded Warrior scholarship recipients 2017-2018

The University of Kansas’ Office of Graduate Military Programs has announced that eight students have received the university’s Wounded Warrior Scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year. Recipients of the scholarships receive up to $10,000 per year and are renewable for up to four academic years.

The scholarships assist injured veterans and affected family members in meeting the financial challenges associated with pursuing a college degree. The many donations made to the KU Endowment to benefit the KU Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund make these scholarships possible.

This year’s Wounded Warrior Scholarship (WWS) recipients:

Joshua Blake received the KU Keener Foundation WWS. Blake is a native of Larned and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps days after the 9/11 attacks. He served four years as an infantryman, including two deployments to Iraq. In 2004, while serving on his second combat tour, Blake was wounded by an IED while on a dismounted patrol in Ramadi, for which he received the Purple Heart. Josh Blake and his wife, Lacey live in Baldwin City and have five children. He is currently a junior in architectural studies.

Luke Dercher is a KU WWS recipient. Dercher is a native of Bonner Springs and served in the U.S. Navy as a Seabee for five years, attaining the rank of E-5, second class petty officer. While in training as a Navy diver candidate, Dercher received injuries that resulted in him being medically discharged from the Navy. He subsequently returned to the Lawrence area to be close to family, rehabilitate from his injuries and attend KU. Dercher is a currently a junior in computer science and has already worked for the Navy, Garmin and NASA as a software engineer.

Arnold Dinh is a Vietnamese-American who grew up in Liberal. Dinh is the recipient of the Heart of America Patriot Foundation WWS and the Delbert Moore Family WWS.  He served two combat tours of duty with the 1st Division, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines in Afghanistan as an infantryman and sniper team member. Following his second tour, Dinh was honorably discharged from the USMC but still suffers the physical and psychological injuries he sustained in war. Dinh is a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology and following graduation plans to attend dental school.

Jimmy Gentile is a native of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and the recipient of a KU WWS. Gentile served with the 2ndBattalion, 4th Marines in Ramadi, Iraq, as part of the 31stMarine Expeditionary Unit. On April 6, 2004, during the Battle of Ramadi, Gentile was shot in the face by an AK-47 round that severed a carotid artery. He evacuated off the battlefield for lifesaving surgery in Iraq, then to Germany and eventually to Bethesda Naval Hospital. The combat wounds have resulted in 41 surgeries and caused him to speak openly about his injury and his faith. Gentile is a second-year graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in information technology. He and his wife, Megan, have four children and currently live in Lee’s Summit.

Timothy Hornik is the recipient of the Bill and Shanthi Eckert WWS at KU. Hornik is a native of Chicago, a retired U.S. Army captain and the CEO of Blind Not Alone LLC.  In 2004, while serving in Iraq as an Air Defense Artillery platoon leader, he was shot in the head and consequently blinded. Despite his injuries, Hornik obtained a master’s degree in social work from KU in 2010 and is currently pursuing a doctorate in therapeutic science at the KU Medical Center. He plans to use his degree, along with his considerable social work case management experience, to assist and advocate for disabled veterans. Hornik, his wife, Cate, and their two daughters live in Lawrence.

Mackenzie Istook received the Heart of America Patriot Foundation WWS at KU. Istook is a third-generation Jayhawk, with her mother and two grandparents attending KU before her. She is a self-described “Army brat” and has lived in seven different states, three foreign countries and attended nine different K-12 schools. Istook’s stepfather, Sgt. First Class Jonathan Tessar, a Green Beret, was killed Oct. 31, 2005, by an IED, along with three other soldiers, on a mission southwest of Baghdad, Iraq. Her mother has since remarried, and her stepfather and two older siblings currently serve in the military. Istook is a junior at KU majoring in visual arts with a minor in business. She remains active in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and with her coursework.

Corey Leach is the recipient of the KAMO Adventures WWS and the Paul & Donna Peters WWS. Leach grew up in Olathe and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2011. While on a foot patrol in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, he stepped into an IED blast zone and suffered severe injuries to his neck, vocal cords, left eye, shoulders and left leg. After completing extensive rehabilitation, Leach was medically retired from the Army in 2014 and entered KU. He is majoring in exercise science and is determined to reach his goal of becoming a physical therapist and working with veterans and athletes.

Maria Santiago is originally from Puerto Rico and the recipient of a KU WWS, the Kansas Military Scholarship and KU Nontraditional Student Scholarship. Santiago served as a Marine in 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California. In June of 2008, Santiago deployed to Iraq when her daughter was 9 months old. Santiago served as a member of a female search team based out of Al-Taqaddum, Iraq. During her deployment, she witnessed and experienced the tragedies of the war across Iraq, and they left lasting scars. Following her honorable discharge from the USMC, Maria decided to attend KU where she is currently a pre-aerospace engineering student with a minor in Spanish. Santiago and her daughter Ashley, age 9, currently reside in Shawnee.

The Office of Graduate Military Programs established the Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund in 2012 through KU Endowment. The first two scholarships were awarded for the 2013-2014 academic year.

“The ability to offer eight scholarships this year clearly demonstrates the dedication the university, its alumni and our local community to our military veterans,” said Randy Masten, the assistant director of Graduate Military Programs.

The scholarships honor the unique sacrifices that service members and their families make while securing our freedoms, according to Mike Denning, director of the Office of Graduate Military Programs.

“We are grateful to our donors who continue to invest in these extraordinary young men and women,” he said. “And we are proud of a university that continues to distinguish itself by its unparalleled support to our service members, veterans and their families.”

Donations can be made online here.

Photo, from left: Josh Blake, Mackenzie Istook, Corey Leach, Arnold Dinh, Jimmy Gentile, Tim Hornik, Maria Santiago and Luke Dercher. 

KU CaresThe first KU Cares Month of Service initiative will take place throughout the month of November. Jayhawks everywhere can organize service projects and recruit volunteers to serve meals, help with yard work, build homes and more to help improve their communities. In addition, a portion of all KU Alumni Association dues paid in November will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund. Join, renew, or upgrade your membership to participate in this initiative!


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KU Alumni Association launches KU Cares Month of Service

Posted on Sep 12, 2017 in Alumni News and News

KU Cares Month of Service

The KU Alumni Association is proud to announce a new campaign this November for networks to give back to their communities. The KU Cares Month of Service will invite networks nationwide to showcase their pride for their alma mater and their cities by volunteering their time and talents in philanthropic events.

“Whether that be volunteering at a soup kitchen, doing a canned food drive, or a public area clean-up, this will be a great way to rally Jayhawks around causes that will benefit their communities,” said Danny Woods, assistant director of legacy and alumni programs.

Other ways to participate in KU Cares

In addition to the volunteer events across national and local networks, if Jayhawks join, renew or upgrade their membership during the month of November a portion of their dues will go to a campus charity.

“Volunteerism is something that KU alumni are passionate about and already doing across the nation, but what excites me the most is giving alumni an avenue to amplify what they are already doing,” Woods said.

Visit the KU Cares Month of Service website to learn more about KU Cares, the Month of Service, and how you can join.

Network volunteers are invited to fill out the Service Project Request form to have a service project added to the Alumni Association’s event calendar and promoted to alumni in the area.

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