Small gesture, big impact: the Dario Compassion Initiative

Katie SamekStaff Writer

Gustavus Adolphus College is about to see a sharp uptick in random acts of kindness, and it’s all thanks to the Dario Compassion Initiative. This weeklong event, running March 13-17, is a reminder to show compassion in all aspects of life, whether it’s holding the door for a stranger or sitting with someone new at lunch.

The main draw of this event is the weeklong bingo game, which runs the entirety of the event. Students can grab a bingo card (or several) from the tables outside the Caf all week from 10 a.m.- 1 p.m., upon which are tasks such as “sit by a new classmate” or “give a hug to someone who needs it.” Students are then encouraged to complete as many tasks on the card as they can over the course of a week, collecting signatures from everyone they show compassion to. After getting at least one bingo, students can drop their cards off either at the tables by the Caf or at the GustieWell office. Each legitimate bingo on the card earns one raffle entry for one of five gift cards for a local business.

Students who fill out their bingo card completely, otherwise known as “blackout,” can turn in their finished card to enter a special grand prize raffle for an Apple Watch. Do note, however, that only blackout bingo cards are eligible for the grand prize raffle – you cannot enter a bingo card for both the gift card raffle and the grand prize raffle. Separate baskets for each type of card will be indicated at the drop-off spots.

Alongside the bingo event, which runs all week, there will also be a workshop held on Wednesday, March 15 from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in the 3 Crowns Room, inside the Jackson Campus Center. Kate Dario, founder and organizer of the Dario Compassion Initiative, will be hosting student-led discussions on topics such as “What does compassion mean to you?” and “How do you spread love to the people around you?”. All students who attend the event will receive an additional bingo card, which means more opportunities to enter the raffles.

The initial idea for the Dario Compassion Initiative came after Junior Kate Dario was trying to think of ideas for events she could host for her then-sorority, Sigma Sigma Sigma. Doug Thompson, who works with the President’s Council for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, suggested she host a Town Hall event on the merits of compassion, which was hosted back in November of 2022. As the event went over well with her sorority, Dario decided to expand her audience and bring her message of compassion to the wider Gustavus community.

“I thought the town hall event went really well,” Dario said. “It only made sense that I should expand my audience and let the rest of the student body participate the next time around.”

Dario acquired funding for the Dario Compassion Initiative from the Campus Activity Office’s newly-minted Special Engagements Fund, which provided her with the resources she needed to get this weeklong event up and running. Of special importance are the series of posters advertising the event on the boards located in the main hallways of the Jackson Campus Center, which provide a way for students to engage with the event more passively.

“I had to argue for the right to keep my name on the project. I want this project to be a way for me to leave my mark on the campus, and without my name on it, how would anyone know it was started by me? The college originally wanted it to be called the Compassion Initiative, but I said no, I want it to be the Dario Compassion Initiative,” Dario said.

Dario’s inspiration for the event may be simple, but she believes that it will be a great way for students to show a little compassion for a world that has largely forgotten how to show it.

“Compassion is something that is so small that people forget to show it to each other. Hosting this event, it allows people to make a small impact on someone else’s day that can impact the world in a much bigger way,” Dario said.

If the Dario Compassion Initiative draws enough recognition this year, Dario has said that she would be willing to host the event again next year.

“Yeah, sure, I’d love to host this event again,” Dario said. “Provided I can get the funding for it, that is. But even if I can’t, it’s nice to know that it generated interest with the student body and changed a few lives for the better.”

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