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Among red and black balloons, Hershey's Kisses and mozzarella sticks, the class of 2010 held its Senior Gift Kick-Off in Sayles Hall last Friday. 

With special appearances by the Jabberwocks and President Ruth Simmons, the kick-off was organized by a 12-person committee headed by co-chairs Joan Wernig Sorensen '72 and Ralph Rosenberg '86.

Every year, the kick-off aims to break the previous year's money raising achievement and tries to "inspire giving that will become a life-long habit," Simmons said in her address to the class. Fundraising may not follow the traditional idea of senior gift giving, but since the establishment of the Brown Annual Fund in 1914, senior gifts have taken this form.

The annual fund uses challenges as a key strategy for fundraising. According to Sorensen, this year's challenge is a dollar-per-dollar match up to $25,000, provided by an anonymous parent donor. In addition, Chancellor Thomas Tisch '76, through the fund's Chancellor's Participation Challenge, has agreed to give $200,000 for every 6,500 donors up to $1 million.

The money raised by the fund is "unrestricted," Sorensen said. The Corporation, of which she is also a member, decides in advance how the money will be divided, she said. Under the current guidelines, 40 percent of what is raised goes to financial aid, 40 percent to supporting faculty and 20 percent to improving student living, Sorensen said.

According to the fund's Web site, this year's goals are to raise $36 million — up from last year's $35 million goal — from 32,839 donors. Another goal is for senior class participation to reach 75 percent.

Although student donations may seem rare, Class Campaign Associate Stephanie Boyce, who worked at the kick-off, said that this year "there has been record participation. (Students) get it, what they donate now will help the kids in the future. There are a ton of students who stand behind the staff and help out."

Sheela Krishnan '10 agreed, adding that "participation in the class gift is important, regardless of the size. I'm not in a place to be a big donor, but making a contribution before I leave would be nice."

Other seniors said they would wait to give money.

"I would love to donate to Brown, after I earn some money," Lawrence Chan '10 said. Donating right now would be like trying to squeeze orange juice from "the last few pieces of pulp," he said.

The importance of donations for future generations and the challenge to break last year's records were the focus of the Senior Gift Kick-Off.

"The generosity of others made your experience at Brown possible," Simmons said.
While the amount of money raised at the kick-off has not yet been announced, the mood among the organizers was optimistic.

As the event ended, Christian Martell '10, senior gift committee co-chair with Ellie Cutler '10, noticed that "someone just made a $1,000 gift. I think that puts us up from (the kick-off event in) 2009!"



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