New Maroon Camp fundraiser "dodges" COVID while curating community

Payne Sleeper, a sophomore majoring in accounting, attended New Maroon Camp’s dodgeball fundraiser in the Sanderson Center Gym.

Mississippi State University's New Maroon Camp staff continued its history of providing lots of safe fun for MSU students by hosting a COVID-19-safe dodgeball tournament on Jan. 23 in the Sanderson Center.

Braden Lewis, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, is the external affairs coordinator for New Maroon Camp. Lewis oversees fundraisers that provide scholarships for incoming students to attend New Maroon Camp while creating fun opportunities for current students and MSU community members.

"I am in charge of fundraising, and that entails helping staff reach their own personal fundraising goals, as well as going around to different businesses in the area in hopes that they will aid us in funding camp," Lewis said. "A big goal for our fundraisers — in addition to raising money — is to help form a community on campus and to get students involved in a fun activity while simultaneously raising money for a good cause."

As the External Affairs Coordinator, Lewis has been the backbone for the execution of the tournament and has carefully orchestrated the event to be safe and fun, despite the risks of COVID-19. Lewis shared some of the safety measures in place prior to the event. 

"We've worked very closely with the Sanderson Center over Christmas break. So you will have to have your temperature taken when you enter the Sanderson Center and provide your name and NetID, so we can do contact-tracing if anyone does test positive," Lewis said. "We will be requiring a mask at the event, and we will be following the Sanderson's cleaning block schedule."

Due to the precautions the Sanderson Center has in place, the tournament was limited to 100 players at one time. Following these guidelines, the New Maroon Camp staff created a schedule allowing up to 18 teams of five students each to sign up to play.

Anna Grace Hand, a sophomore agricultural communications major, is the multimedia coordinator on the executive staff of New Maroon Camp. Along with spreading the word about various New Maroon Camp activities via advertisements and graphics, Hand develops safe forms of communication.

"I make all the graphics and am in charge of photos, videos, postcards or anything that has a visual aspect," Hand said. "Because of COVID-19, we are not allowed to hand anything out, so everything has been concentrated on social media this year."

Having participated in an in-person camp, Hand said they hope to host the coming camp in-person, as the experience is completely different when taking place on campus. This hope is represented in the lengths the staff has gone to in order to make this dodgeball tournament a tangible, physical experience.

"We are so excited to be doing something in-person," Hand said. "It will be good to see everyone in one room again."

Vy Yadav, a freshman working on an international business major, is a member of the programming staff and planned to play in the tournament with her friends.

"We are really there to have fun and support New Maroon Camp because it's a big deal for us as staff to promote it," Yadav said. "Right now, we are helping with fundraising, which is basically what the dodgeball tournament is, to raise money for incoming students who might not be able to afford it — for students to have the opportunity to come, regardless of their financial situation."

Originally from India, Yadav moved to Mississippi only two years ago. Thus, the idea of New Maroon Camp is particularly compelling to her, having experienced the transition into unfamiliarity in a way the majority of people have never known.

"If you're moving from your parents' house to a new state or a new city or you're living in a dorm with someone you may not know, moving in and having classes the very next day can be overwhelming for so many people," Yadav said. "New Maroon Camp gives them a feel for Mississippi State and the campus, and it unites the students."

With a little luck and lots of planning, the safety and community aspect which defined Saturday's dodgeball tournament will define New Maroon Camp this coming August. 

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