Spartans from near and far come to welcome students back to campus


Signs of encouragement during Spartan Sunday 2/19 Photo Credit: Delaney Rogers/WDBM

Delaney Rogers, Station Manager

It has been six days since the mass shooting at Michigan State University. Despite lingering anxiety and grief, hundreds of volunteers lined the Red Cedar River for Spartan Sunday to welcome students back to campus and extend their support in numerous ways before classes resume on Monday.

The sidewalks from the Spartan Statue to The Rock were flooded with tables and volunteers. Tables were filled with different foods for students to take for free such as cookies, granola bars and peanut butter. Along the path, words of encouragement for students were written on signs. Multiple groups of mothers were also volunteering, offering “free mom hugs” to anyone who needed one.

Vicky Harris said, “These are like my kids, this hits very close to home and there’s nothing like a good mom hug to make you feel a little bit better, a little more safe and that you are loved and protected. That’s why I’m here today… to try and at least do a little bit of being a surrogate mom for those who do not have access to get the hugs right now.”

Volunteers offering “Free Mom Hugs” during Spartan Sunday 2/19 Photo Credit: Delaney Rogers/WDBM

Harris is a professor herself and her husband is a professor at MSU. She shared that this tragedy resonates with her due to how close to home it is.

“We are trying to figure out the best way we can show support during such an unfathomable tragedy,” said Harris. 

In addition to hugs from mothers, students had the opportunity to pet dogs. Along the path, different groups and volunteers brought their pets to spread positivity. 


Cheryl Wassus said, “They help decompress every situation.”

Wassus brought therapy dogs from Therapy Dogs International. She said she saw the request on social media and traveled from Monroe County to be there.

Students could be seen carrying multiple bags filled to the brim with the items that were handed out. The volunteers graciously offered these items to students with a motive to bring positivity and comfort.

Students fill bags to the brim with items handed out by volunteers on Spartan Sunday 2/19 Photo Credit: Delaney Rogers/WDBM

Kelly Allen said, “I just think it’s really important to support the students today and to be able to provide some sort of distraction that’s positive to help them with coping. It’s such a horrific thing.” 

Allen, and her dog, were handing out dog and stress relief toys.

An overwhelming number of people were in attendance, spreading kindness and validating one another. The theme of healing is ongoing and will continue as students learn to cope with this tragedy. 

Alumni Kaela Wright volunteered at the event with her family. She shared how she met her husband at MSU and wanted to come back to a place she calls home to support students.

“This was our home for a really long time. It’s kind of emotional,” said Wright. “This is a really important part of our existence. It’s such a safe place for us so we wanted to come in and spread some love and show our kids that you can take action and you can do things when your heart is hurting and when other people are hurting.” 

In less than 24 hours, students will return to school and begin to find a sense of normalcy again. 

Spartan Sunday words of encouragement 2/19 Photo Credit: Delaney Rogers/WDBM

Freshman Thomas McCarthy said what happened on Monday is something no one should ever experience. He shared that he never thought he would be associated with a school shooting and that it has been very emotional yet something that has united the community. 

“I’m glad to be a part of all of this despite tragedies like this. It is good to come together and support the community,” McCarthy said. “One of the things I was really surprised about was even the day after the shooting, people were together. There was a lot of togetherness, even in the dorms just talking to each other and having one another’s back.”