© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Spartan Sunday' event welcomes students back to MSU campus with dogs, flowers and hugs

Crowds of people surround the Spartan Statue, there are hundreds of bouquets around the statue.
Sophia Saliby
The Spartan Statue on campus has become a makeshift memorial and a site of community mourning since the shooting.

Michigan State University students are going back to classes Monday, less than a week after a mass shooting left three dead and five hospitalized.

An event held on campus Sunday was organized to welcome those still grappling with the tragedy back to East Lansing with love and support. Thousands attended "Spartan Sunday."

It all started out with a group text message Tuesday night among a group of grad students.

Emily Damman asked her friends if they wanted to meet up to pick up trash and hand out some encouraging notes as students returned to the city.

Megan Swirczek, who helped Damman organize the event, said they just wanted to bring people together.

Mackenzie Freeman, McKenzie Winne, Megan Swirczek and Meredith Friend smile and pose together. Several of them are wearing yellow caution vests.
Sophia Saliby
Mackenzie Freeman, McKenzie Winne, Megan Swirczek and Meredith Friend all helped organize the Spartan Sunday event.

"I think it's just important that even though the school is really big, there's a friend around every corner and people are here to make them feel love."

Over the course of the week, plans for the event seemed to get bigger and bigger. Nearly 1,500 people signed up to volunteer. Local businesses and bigger corporations pitched in with donations.

Starting at the Spartan Statue, which has become a makeshift memorial in the past week, booths and tables ran down Red Cedar Road for more than a quarter of a mile. Students, alumni and community members were there to give out flowers, snacks and hugs.

Victoria VanHolder, a volunteer, said she didn’t go to MSU as a student, but she wanted to do what she could as a member of the community

"I wanted to support the students and the younger generation because I have empathy for what they're going through. Something I never had to deal with growing up."

A contingent of corgis were also there ready to be cuddled. Patti Horne brought her dogs, Winnie and Mr. Blaze for students to pet.

"I'm stopping them as they come by, and they're loving on the dogs," Horne said. "And they seem really happy and very appreciative of all of us being out here."

Patti Horne and her husband smiling with two corgis on leashes
Sophia Saliby
Patti Horne and her husband with their dogs, Winnie (in the background) and Mr. Blaze.

Dan Carlson had a sign with the message "Free Dad Jokes." He said he wanted to make people laugh

"I saw the moms who always give out mom hugs. I'm like, 'Well, I'm not gonna give out hugs, but I can definitely give out jokes, right?'"

Many students including Faelan Obrien, a senior studying marketing, have stayed away from the university for the past week.

"This is our first time being back on campus since Monday night, and so just showing up for our community and seeing everybody else that showed up, it means a lot to us."

Education senior Madelyn Kwiecinski said the event has been a welcome burst of positive energy.

This is our first time being back on campus since Monday night, and so just showing up for our community and seeing everybody else that showed up, it means a lot to us.
Faelan Obrien

"It's been kind of like quiet and just weird around here. But today, it's nice to like see so many people and faces."

During a press conference held at the same time as the event, MSU officials shared plans for how they would make the transition back to classes, like offering counseling and options for students to receive just credit for courses instead of letter grades.

The university’s interim president Teresa Woodruff said the community will be moving forward.

"We will grieve, and we will mend," she said. "And today, we reclaim our campus and our lives on behalf of our Spartan community."

MSU student McKenzie Winne says it’s hard to put into words how she feels as one of the event’s organizers, but says she’s proud of the impact the Spartan community has made.

"If you give them a call, they answer back," she said.

For those who couldn’t attend, everything left over will be brought to the dorms for students to pick up as needed.

Sophia Saliby is the local producer and host of All Things Considered, airing 4pm-7pm weekdays on 90.5 FM WKAR.
Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!