Without a trace of the usual San Francisco fog in sight, attendees basked in the uncharacteristic 80-degree weather during the Office of Annual Giving’s Day of the Dons carnival. The annual 24-hour event is the University’s largest fundraiser of the year and has returned in person after a year of remote learning.
As described on the USF Facebook page, Day of the Dons is “USF’s most important day of giving.” With the funds raised from this event, the University aims to invest in its students and faculty, accompanied by a celebration of “…the return to campus and philanthropy’s role in helping to make that happen as safely as possible,” according to the Office of Development Communication’s April 11 press release.
With the help of 3,135 donors — surpassing the University’s goal of 3,000 — USF raised over 1.8 million this year, an even larger amount than the record-breaking 1.3 million raised in 2021. The previous record was blown out of the water due to high levels of participation early on in the day of April 7, and the decision for the first time in event history to extend the donation window for an additional 24 hours until April 8. Donors were able to designate where their funds would go, with the largest donation category being The USF Fund toward “University’s Greatest Need” with 256 donors and $585,053 raised. Other lucrative categories included the USF Athletics and USF Scholarship funds.
Although the event’s main purpose was to raise money, many students appreciated its free activities and feeling connected to University life. “My favorite part of the carnival was just being able to hang out with all of my friends again,” said kinesiology major Araceli Hernandez. “We got a lot of free snacks, talked, and enjoyed our surroundings. It was definitely great to feel a sense of normalcy after these last two years.”
The set up for the day was difficult to ignore. Upon setting foot on Gleeson Plaza, it was nearly impossible to miss the gigantic, inflatable yellow bouncy house that stood tall in the center of the lawn. The event also included a DJ as well as a photo booth so that attendees could commemorate their experience.
For some, such as freshman media studies major Emmi Summers, the April 7 event served as a much-needed break to unwind as finals season approaches. “My friend and I were walking around and saw that there were some activities going on so we decided to see what was happening,” said Summers, “Petting the animals was definitely a huge stress reliever for me.”
The petting zoo was one of the more popular attractions of the event. From bunnies to goats, to chickens — students circled the pen, anticipating their turn to play with one of the adorable animals. Others tried their hand at the variety of games hosted at the event, which included Giant Janga and an obstacle course.
First-year international business major Imani Wyat said the occasion helped strengthen her relationship with the USF community, “Events like this one make me feel more involved and allow me to meet new people,” Wyat said. “I like that Day of the Dons encouraged social positivity, despite how stressed people can be.”
Summers shared a similar sentiment, commenting that the event helped her “feel more connected to the school and created a fun environment for students.” Summers continued, “I wish that USF had more on-campus social events. I would love it if they brought animals again for finals week to help with the stress of tests.”
The carefree day was nostalgic for some seniors, including Hernandez. “Being at the carnival with my friends and remembering that it’s going to be my last time that we can meet up for these types of events definitely made me sentimental,” Hernandez said. “It made me think about how this event differed from the one from my freshmen year, but also of how my life has changed in the last three years; the friendships that I’ve made and lost, and the opportunities that USF has given me.”
While Day of the Dons was effective in giving students an outlet to socialize and destress, the event holds a much greater and long-lasting impact beyond just a day of fun. This year’s Day of the Dons, and its unprecedented extension, made the fundraising tradition particularly successful during a time when USF is orchestrating significant plans, with hefty price tags, to expand the campus.