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The Biggest of the Big Events

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Most Saturday mornings, you wouldn't find the Texas A&M campus crawling with students, only for a big event.

Like The Big Event.

"I think what's amazing is that you have 8,000 college students taking up a Saturday, getting up, for them, early in the morning, and working to do service projects for people in the Brazos Valley," said A&M President Robert Gates.

Back in 1982, a student government official decided A&M should give of their time to show their appreciation to the community they call home. "So he just came up with this idea of going to their houses and helping them do random chores around the house," said this year's Big Event director, Andrew Bugbee. "Since then, it's grown to the largest student service project in the nation. Over the past 23 years, we expanded to 71 other universities in the nation."

One of the houses the Ags helped out at in Bryan hosts local residents who are mentally retarded. The state provides them with a place to grow, a chance to experience some semblance of society. But the funding only stretches so far. Enter the Big Event.

"We're trying to fix up this house," said Hellen Swanson, who heads up Mental Health Mental Retardation locally. "We have eight people living here. It's important to me that people who have mental retardation or not have a safe, happy, clean place to live, so I put in the request to have the kitchen painted."

And Aggie Habitat for Humanity, who know a thing or two about happy homes, were happy to oblige.

"With Habitat, we already like to give back to the community," said Brandon Frye, who headed up the effort at the house. "We got involved with Big Event because it's another opportunity to give back to the community, along with all the other Aggies we go to school with."

For the Howard family, The Big Event is an annual tradition. For four years now, they've had students come out to help around the house. One of the big projects this year is fixing up the driveway.

"We had so much rain earlier that it washed away a lot of the stuff there, so we're just getting that built out," said Jesse Howard. "My wife and I, we have different projects that are laid out that we work on throughout the year. And when they come out, they just help us complete them."

The Delta Delta Delta sorority and Squadron 17 of the A&M Corps helped out with the driveway and some other odd jobs around the house.

"We really enjoy doing it just because we kind of invade this city as college students, and we just like giving back to the community and letting them know that we really do appreciate everything that they do for us," said Gina Nardecchia with Delta Delta Delta.

And the Howard grandkids were around to lend a hand. When they become Aggies, they will again.

"It's not if. They will be. They're going to participate in The Big Event also because it's always given back to the community, and that's what we're all about," said Howard. "And we just love it when the kids come out here."

In all, some 900 locations were helped by the Aggies. All in one Big day's work.