On Friday, Vice President for Student Life Bijan Khaghani ’23 hosted an all-campus Nerf war on the South Quad to raise money for nine different charities. Eighteen student organizations and around 120 students participated in the Nerf war, raising over $1,000 in total for New Directions and organizations that prevent gun violence.
The Nerf war was spearheaded by Khaghani, who came up with the idea after a few organizations approached him this fall about hosting a campus-wide event similar to last semesters’ WKCO Fest, which could help student organizations fulfill their campus contributions. The Nerf war was an effort to create an opportunity for increased student organization engagement and also functioned as a charity event. “Organizations find it very difficult to finish their campus contributions,” Khaghani said. “As a VP position in the Student Council, we shouldn’t just be approving constitutions, we should be doing more.”
The event took place from 5 to 7 p.m. and was split into three games, each of which took about fifteen minutes: an initial free-for-all, capture the flag and finally a “Protect the President” game, where a team of students attempted to safely escort Student Council President Ubongabasi Asuquo ’23 across the quad. The final hour had various lawn games, tables for donations and opportunities for students and organizations to interact. More than 80 Nerf guns were provided for students by the Office of Student Engagement, though students were encouraged to bring their own.
While the initial charity partnership for the Nerf war was with New Directions, an organization which provides support and counseling for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in Knox County, Khaghani decided to expand the partnership to raise money for other charities that combat gun violence. “As time got closer, I noticed that we should have considered gun violence not to be a joke, and that it was trivializing. A Nerf war was not the best idea to do, especially in this climate,” Khaghani said. In total, $512 was raised for New Directions, and $500 was raised for eight organizations which campaign against gun violence. Among these eight organizations were the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Ben’s Lighthouse and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
Khaghani was excited at the reactions to the Nerf war from students and student organizations alike, especially with their willingness to spread donation links and help out with any complications. “Without me telling anyone, people were adding to this event, in a bunch of different ways,” he said, specifically praising Pep Band’s Instagram post, which recommended charities to donate to. “As much as I was a nervous wreck half the time, it was because of all of them that we were able to make such an amazing event,” Khaghani said.
After the initial “war” part of the event ended at 6 p.m., students played various lawn games and ate dinner at Peirce Dining Hall. During this time, Khaghani tabled for further donations, raising over $800 from students. The final $200 was donated by Khaghani himself, bringing the total amount of money raised to over $1,000.
Specifically, $512 was raised for New Directions, which had a large impact on the organization. “Over the course of this event, we were able to give ten survivors three months worth of care. It’s an amazing marker that this went well,” said Khaghani.
Khaghani also noted that in addition to the successful charity event, the Nerf war also created a fun, enthusiastic environment for everyone to engage with. In particular, he noted the kindness of Pep Band for their help. “I just want to very much thank those eighteen organizations, but specifically Pep Band and all of the organizations who went out of their way to contact members of their orgs. Even when people weren’t able to show up, they were still saying to come donate. This couldn’t have been possible without them,” he said.
The enthusiastic engagement at the event was also noticed by other students, particularly those from participating student organizations. “Bijan Khaghani was a pleasure to work with,” Becca Mucheru ’23, president of Alpha Sigma Tau, wrote in a message to the Collegian. “I think he has a lot of really cool things coming down the line. The event brought my organization together in a way we would have never thought of.”
In the future, Khaghani plans to host more activities similar to the Nerf war, with the goal of uniting student organizations on campus and giving everyone an opportunity to participate.
“This isn’t the end. There’s so many more things that I’m going to be doing this year,” Khaghani said. “There’s a lot coming out of student life this year, and I’m really glad that this was the start.”