The Honors Program is not slowing down due to the pandemic. While following the CDC’s guidelines and Indiana University’s health regulations, they have still found a way to keep up with Saint Margaret’s House Winter Walk. While in past years the Winter Walk was held in person, this year due to keeping the best interest of participants’ health during this pandemic, it went virtual.
The Honors Program has been participating in the Winter Walk since 2013, while faculty, alumni, and other organizations affiliated with the university, such as sororities, have participated in the Winter Walk in previous years according to Dr. Neovi Karakatsanis, Honors Program Director.
The Winter Walk raises awareness for women and children experiencing hardship whose only means of transportation is their feet, even in some of the coldest months such as February.
“I hope the walk reminds us that others in our community are far less fortunate and that we need to stand in solidarity with those who are vulnerable—not just in February, but every day of the year,” Karakatsanis said.
Additionally, the Winter Walk is Saint Margaret’s House’s largest fundraiser each year. It is not required for participants to donate, but simply encouraged.
Typically, the Winter Walk would take place for one day. Participants would meet inside the County-City Building and set out on a one-mile walk leading back to Saint Margaret’s House.
Upon arrival, participants would be greeted with cookies, hot cocoa and popcorn and then would be given a tour of the “house.” The Winter Walk is described as an incredibly festive experience and quite fun for all involved.
However, this year the Winter Walk is taking place from Feb. 14-21. The time period of the Winter Walk was extended to encourage participation and safety during the pandemic.
“Due to the fact there is not a singular time and place, I am hopeful that many more people will participate this year, and in turn raise more money for St. Margaret’s House,” James Tachman, student engagement executive, said.
Participants were asked to walk only with immediate family members or those within their social bubble to adhere to social distancing guidelines required by the university.
“I think this year will be a little different with everyone walking in different places, but I believe that the camaraderie is still there. Between decorating your number tags, coordinating matching shirts/masks with your personal ‘team”, and sharing photos and videos on social media, the walk will be just as wonderful, just from a distance!” Kaitlyn Dow, marketing executive, said.
Social media played a large role this year to keep participants connected during the Winter Walk. Participants were encouraged to take pictures and videos with the hashtag #SMHWinterWalk to create a sense of community using a virtual platform.
The Honors Program has already exceeded their fundraising goal of $500 and is approaching $1,000 at the time of print. While the Saint Margaret’s House goal of $80,000 has not been reached just yet.
Humbled by the IU South Bend community’s involvement, Karakatsanis said, “I am very thankful for the donations that have already been made to the IUSB Honors Team. Each time I look at our donation page, I’m always humbled by people’s generosity, people’s humanity. Of course, I also wish we could do more. Imagine what would happen if everyone on campus just gave $1 to this cause!”
Overall, the Winter Walk going virtual showcases that there are opportunities to help those in need while still following CDC guidelines.
“The Winter Walk is not only incredibly humbling, but a great bonding experience for IUSB and the greater South Bend community as a whole. I recommend anyone who is able to experience the Walk at least once, because it really does bring the community together, no matter where you come from,” Tachman said.