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Little 500, Students Helping Students raise funds for new mental health space

Apr 18, 2024

As teams reach the start line and fans fill the stands for “The World’s Greatest College Weekend,” Indiana University’s tradition of the Little 500 is making a difference beyond the race.

Each year, students with the IU Student Foundation select a student-focused initiative to raise money for the Students Helping Students campaign. This year’s campaign is partnering with the Office of the Chief Health Officer to help destigmatize mental health on campus.

The IU Student Foundation leadership team includes the Steering Committee, in red, and Riders Council, in black. Photo provided... The IU Student Foundation leadership team includes the Steering Committee, in red, and Riders Council, in black. Photo provided by the IU Student Foundation

“We’re raising money to build a mental health space on campus,” said senior Natalie Manfredini, an IU Student Foundation Steering Committee member leading the Students Helping Students campaign. “The Kelley School of Business actually has something called the Balance Room where students can go and take a mental break and prioritize their mental health between classes. We thought that was a really great room, but it’s only available to Kelley students. So with this year’s campaign, we want to designate a mental health space on campus that all students can use.”

The race started in 1951 as a way to raise money for student scholarships. The Students Helping Students campaign, a peer-to-peer fundraising effort, was officially created in 2023 as an additional way the race could benefit students and get them involved.

Last year it selected Crimson Cupboard, IU’s food pantry. With more than $60,000 raised through Students Helping Students, the Crimson Cupboard bought a van to help the pantry more easily transport food from Hoosier Hills Food Bank to campus.

“Our race is etched in philanthropy” said Will Pitts, a senior and president of IU Student Foundation’s Riders Council. “It started because of philanthropy, and it’s still here because of what we do for students. IUSF and Students Helping Students allow the students to really take matters into their own hands and not only build a future for themselves, but build a future for IU and a campus that’s going to be just as good if not better for the next generation.”

A Kappa Alpha Theta rider wears a patch for the Students Helping Students campaign at the Women's Little 500. Photo by Jame... A Kappa Alpha Theta rider wears a patch for the Students Helping Students campaign at the Women's Little 500. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana UniversityThe riding teams are also raising money. Each team signs up to meet a fundraising goal; those that reach it will get an “I ride for Students Helping Students” patch to wear on their race-day jerseys.

“For riders, earning their patch and having a little competition within the competition of Little 500 reaffirms that the reason they’re riding is important, and that they’re riding for something bigger than themselves,” said Pitts, who is riding in Little 500 for his fourth year.

Pitts, a marketing and professional sales major in the Kelley School of Business, got involved in Little 500 as a rider for his fraternity his freshman year. While he joined as a way to continue athletics and competition after high school, his work with the race has gone beyond that. As a member of the Riders Council, he works with the riding teams to make the race and the Students Helping Students campaign possible.

“It allows me to stay competitive, and it’s been a staple of my college career,” Pitts said. “When I think back on my time at IU, it will definitely be a majority of my time with IUSF and my fraternity bike team.”

Sigma Phi Epsilon rider Will Pitts, right, is president of IU Student Foundation's Riders Council. Here he leads a pack into tu... Sigma Phi Epsilon rider Will Pitts, right, is president of IU Student Foundation's Riders Council. Here he leads a pack into turn four during the 2023 Men's Little 500. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

The women’s Little 500 race will be held April 19, and the men’s race will follow on April 20. For the Students Helping Students campaign, the race to raise money will continue through April 21. So far, more than 750 students have donated to the campaign, with funds reaching over $20,000.

People interested in giving can make donations to the campaign online. Purchasing a Little 500 ticket also benefits Students Helping Students, with $1 from every ticket going to the campaign.

“Student philanthropy is something I think most students don’t realize is so easy to be involved with,” said Krista Kane, IU Student Foundation Steering Committee president. “It’s not giving millions of dollars to the campus or being at every event, but there is a portion you can donate every single day, and that’s time, treasure, testimony and whatever you can give to help other students.

“The most meaningful part is watching all the student involvement on campus. Every student is rallying behind one common cause and goal to help other students, and I think that’s a moving sentiment.”

Author

University Communications and Marketing

Elizabeth Cotter

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