By Safia Hashi
Fourteen students took a stand against a dangerous drinking game by choosing to pay it forward instead.
On the morning of March 19, they loaded a bus to Big Sky Ranch animal sanctuary in Kemptville to feed displaced animals and clean their living areas.
A recent global Facebook phenomenon called Neknomination encouraged individuals to drink high amounts of alcohol on camera and perform stunts within 24 hours of being nominated.
The RAKnominations provide a new positive spin, where the Safer Ottawa Drinking Alliance and Algonquin College will nominate La Cité Collegiale and the University of Ottawa to commit a random act of kindness within 24 days of the event.
Student Affairs and Orientation partnered with Health Services and the SODA to take action. It is one of many efforts to dissuade binge drinking and discourage students from participating in Neknominations.
Big Sky Ranch is entirely run by volunteers and the only non-kill sanctuary of its kind in Eastern Ontario. The owner does not draw any income from the upkeep and all of the donations go directly towards the health of the animals.
“The healing properties of animals are astounding,” said Pauline Lafleur, the office manager. “We are all here because we share a mutual love and respect for other species.”
Students began folding towels, feeding barn cats and organizing donations as soon as they arrived.
Bianca Vasile, a student in second-level practical nursing, helped feed horses, an emu, and a 1,000 lb pig named Lulu.
“I think everyone should volunteer if they get the chance this summer,” said Vasile.
The initiative coincides with community support services. Students attending were eligible to add the activity to their co-curricular record.
Valarie Bowman is the SAO officer who organized the event.
“I’m happy people signed on to do this,” she said. “I want to take Ellie (a pig) home with me!”
Lafleur hopes students will carry on volunteering with Big Sky Ranch.
“I was impressed by the students’ willingness to take on new tasks and their desire to help animals they have not encountered before,” she said. “They went beyond their comfort zone to meet the animals’ needs. We are thankful for their visit.”