A spirit of service

'Canes Day of Service
Alumni and friends make the University of Miami's first 'Canes Day of Service an inspiring success

On a sunny Saturday in April, alumni of the University of Miami gathered to clean up a portion of a beach at the far end of Virginia Key in Miami. In a span of three hours, the group collected dozens of bags of trash—from plastic bottles to boat parts and everything in between—and gave back, in some small but significant way, to their South Florida community. 

They were joined by parents, students, faculty and staff as part of a greater movement: the University’s first global ‘Canes Day of Service. The event, organized by the Office of Engagement, was created to mobilize the larger UM community in service to others. In all, close to 1000 people signed up to volunteer at 24 sites across 19 cities.

In Los Angeles, a group of alumni read to kids. Tampa ‘Canes worked with rescued pets, and those in DC cleaned up a park. In New Jersey they provided company and assistance to veterans, and Charlotte, Palm Beach, and other ‘Cane groups worked tirelessly at food banks. In Houston, alumni helped build over 4,000 nutritious, kid-friendly "backpacks" to be provided for at-risk schoolchildren. 

UM President Julio Frenk, who was part of the effort in Miami, said, “As a university we exist to help address humanity’s biggest problems, and we do that through research, through teaching, and through service. And I’m very proud to see our alumni carrying forward that spirit of service to our community.” 

Hard at work in Miami were alumni young and old, volunteering veterans and first timers, all contributing to building a tradition of giving. 'Cane couple Jennifer Szeto, B.B.A. '96, M.B.A. '98, and Greg Szeto, B.M. '94, M.M. '97, brought their young children along for the ride, hoping to teach them how to give back. Raul Velarde, B.S.E.N.E. '15, M.S.C.E. '15, said the event inspired him to organize his own service project. “Picking up these little bottles," he said, "might not seem like a lot, but when there’s 50 of us, there’s 80 of us, and each one gets a pound of waste, the volume of it is actually pretty impressive. Then you begin to realize the impact we can each have.”

Senior Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, Josh Friedman, brought his daughter to the Miami beach cleanup. “'Canes care about 'Canes, but also care about the world,” he said. “And it’s wonderful that on at least one day out of the year, all of us can come together and do something that really matters. I think it’s the best of us, and it makes me really proud to be a Miami Hurricane.”

Click here to see the complete photo gallery from 'Canes Day of Service on April 13, 2019.

Special thanks to Broward 'Canes president Ken Graff of CanesWear for sponsoring 'Canes Day of Service T-shirts.