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President's Blog: From the Heart

Miracle on UD Street

By Eric F. Spina

As the Humanities Plaza began to fill with thousands of University of Dayton students, their school children “buddies,” and Dayton families, a fourth grade choir from Saville Elementary School softly sang a jazzy Christmas tune, “Snowman, Where Did You Go?”

In 2020, the pandemic forced the organizers to cancel the in-person Christmas on Campus, but, unlike the song’s snowman, the beloved tradition never evaporated. UD students packaged craft activities to send to first and second graders in the Dayton Public Schools that year and invited families in the Dayton community to campus last year. This year, though, marked the return of Dayton Public School students.

As 33 school buses rolled into parking lot C with 1,100 children on Dec. 8, my heart leaped for joy at the familiar sight. Christmas on Campus, now in its 59th year, was back in all its glory, and you could feel the euphoria. This year’s theme could not have been more perfect: “Miracle on UD Street.”

For tens of thousands of alumni and students over generations, Christmas on Campus is a night of magic, joy, love — and faith. Always held on or around the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the night kicks off with a live nativity scene narrated by English professor emeritus Jim Farrelly. On cue, we count down for the Christmas tree lighting and then clear a path for Santa to travel through the crowd in a motorized sleigh to the Science Center for photos with the children. The evening closes with students serving as Eucharistic ministers and lectors at a Mass that draws hundreds.

To say Christmas on Campus is a production is an understatement. A *huge* understatement. Students begin planning the event in March and spend hours turning the campus into a beautifully decorated winter wonderland of glowing lights, crafts, and carnival games — including a petting zoo with a reindeer and zebu and tables piled high with 350 boxes of cheese pizzas, steaming cups of hot chocolate, and 100 dozen cookies.

In Kettering Labs, children clamored to climb into the Merlin flight simulator, which had been transformed into a high-tech Santa’s sleigh. The RecPlex gym, typically the home of intramural and pick-up basketball games, featured cornhole, ring toss, bowling, and ornament decorating. Several schoolchildren had opened Lego gifts from their UD buddies and were sprawled on the floor building spaceships and dune buggies. Another child happily raced his bright red, remote-controlled sports car. Outside, children waited their turn to ride a trackless train around campus. I spotted one little boy proudly carrying a Super Soaker water blaster over his head, a gift from his UD buddy.

This night belonged to the children and their buddies.

From my heart, I’m so grateful for the tireless efforts of co-coordinators Sophia Locker and Julia Mills. With the help of roughly 1,500 of their fellow students, they brought back one of the greatest traditions in UD history and reminded us of the true spirit of Christmas.

Just like God gave us his only son, it’s the giving of ourselves to others.

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