Bubbles and hummers for scholars

Happy Meal Hummer

Image by gadgetdude via Flickr

If you’ve attended many weddings, you probably have a drawer full of odd things like tiny bottles of bubbles, miniature bells with plastic clappers, wine glasses etched with names or a Hershey bar with a bride and groom smiling on the label (okay, maybe you ate that). These items and hundreds of others from scented soaps and bottle stoppers to cookie cutters, personalized golf balls and origami birds — they’re all part of what one wedding website calls an “entrenched tradition.” Party favors for wedding guests — kind of like McDonald’s Happy Meal toys for happy wedding guests, if you think about it.

All entrenchment aside, if  you’ve ever paid for a wedding, you probably look at these trinkets with a jaded eye. Recently we learned of one young enterprising Madison couple who used that part of their wedding budget in a way that is lasting and beneficial. Alexander Waldie (’07, ’10M) and Caitlin Briska (’09, ’10M) who wed this past weekend in Raleigh, N.C., decided to forgo wedding favors. Instead they made a donation to the Madison Fund. Great idea, isn’t it?  We thought so.

It made me wonder what other great occasions might be similarly “favored.”  How about a 40th birthday party?  Or 50th?  Or 60th?  By 60, few people need origami birds or cookie cutters that say “cut out for each other.” And what 40-year-old really wants black balloons, a cane or a tub of Metamucil? This week, I’m invited to a 40th-birthday party for Harrisonburg realtor Chris Rooker (’92). I think I’ll share this post on Chris’ Facebook page for all his friends.

And how about graduations, especially for soon-to-be-employed students? What if you were to start a scholarship fund  — or add to an existing one — in honor of their accomplishments? I’ve written plenty of checks to high school and college graduates who don’t always need the money.

Let’s take Alex and Caitlin’s great idea one step further.

What if every time you went into a store where they offered something “free,” you could ask them to donate equivalent money to the Madison Fund. I would certainly prefer that to finding yet another spot in my junk draw for one more logo-laden ballpoint pen or refrigerator magnet.  And what if cereal boxes came with coupons for tuition credits instead of Star Wars figures?  Or what if banks and businesses gave away educational savings accounts instead or koozies or tote bags? I wonder if one million McDonalds Hummers would equal a scholarship for a student. Maybe that’s an idea that corporate marketeers should consider. I know I would patronize stores that took part of their massive marketing budgets and made commitments to higher education instead of junking up my house.

Alex and Caitlin have certainly changed my thinking. I, for one, will reconsider all those entrenched gift-giving occasions.  How about you?  If you like their idea, spread it by posting this to your Facebook page! Caitlin and Alex’s idea could lead to a whole lot of positive change.

If you want to act on Alex and Caitlin’s great idea, here is the link to the Madison Fund: http://www.jmu.edu/madisonfund/

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About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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