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Stuffed panda bears collected for a good cause

Alpha Omicron Pi members Vanessa Perocier, senior psychology major, and Kailey Milliken, senior criminology major, work at the sorority’s panda drive table Wednesday when two members of the La Verne community, Maribel Nunez and Delia Heredia, stop by to learn about the cause. The sorority collected stuffed panda bears, or money to buy stuffed panda bears, which will be used at the American Juvenile Arthritis Organization’s annual conference. / photo by Kelley Maggiulli

Alpha Omicron Pi members Vanessa Perocier, senior psychology major, and Kailey Milliken, senior criminology major, work at the sorority’s panda drive table Wednesday when two members of the La Verne community, Maribel Nunez and Delia Heredia, stop by to learn about the cause. The sorority collected stuffed panda bears, or money to buy stuffed panda bears, which will be used at the American Juvenile Arthritis Organization’s annual conference. / photo by Kelley Maggiulli

Amber J. Guadez
Staff Writer

A “Panda”monium hit the University of La Verne this week as the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority held its Panda Drive fundraiser.

With the money raised, they plan to purchase plush pandas to give to children with juvenile arthritis.

From Panda Drive, AOII was able to collect 17 pandas and $138.10 in donations.

“Our philanthropy is arthritis research, it attacks mostly women and little kids, so we’re doing this for them,” Angela Rios, senior international business and language major, said.

The idea of the Panda Drive was taken from other international chapters and sisters of AOII who have held similar fundraising events.

The first ever Panda Drive was held during the International AOII Convention that took place in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1995.

The pandas were given to police and fire stations and used as gifts to children undergoing traumatic experiences that may have caused lifelong injury.

For those not familiar with Greek terms, each sorority and fraternity has a philanthropy.

Philanthropy is the goal to promote the welfare of others and acts of altruism.

“Our philanthropy is never going to change, all of our fundraisers and events are made sure to fit our philanthropy,” Rios said.

Since AOII is an international sorority, the whole foundation has similar plans like the Panda Project.

Every summer over 400 children attend the Teddy Bear Pain Clinic in which each child plays the role of a doctor to their teddy bear patients. They diagnose, treat and give shots, which serve as a sort of reverse therapy for the children.

The pandas sent by AOII would also be used to support and make sure there are enough pandas for each child attending this conference. Any extra pandas received are used on a regional level.

“Each plush panda costs about $10 so we hope to have a good amount and ship a box or two,” junior psychology major Brenda Uribe said.

The boxes filled with plush pandas will be sent to the AOII headquarters in Brentwood, Tennessee.

From the headquarters, pandas are donated to the American Juvenile Arthritis Organization.

The AJAO serves children, young adults and their families with childhood rheumatic diseases. The AJAO promotes awareness, access to care and encourages research to improve the lives of children affected by juvenile arthritis, as well as other diseases.

Pandas are used because it is AOII’s international unofficial mascot.

“Who doesn’t like pandas? They’re so comforting,” Cindy Lai, junior business administration major and philanthropy chair of AOII said.

“It’s such an amazing opportunity and also our first time,” Lai said. “We are hoping to do this annually to continue giving back to kids with juvenile arthritis.”

After the Panda Project, AOII has another philanthropy event planned for Nov. 11. LOL, Laughs of Love is their annual comedy show, with all proceeds going to arthritis research.

“We are always seeking to support something bigger than ourselves,” Lai said.

Amber J. Guadez can be reached at amber.guadez@laverne.edu.

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