BACCHUS: raising awareness, improving life for all

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BACCHUS: raising awareness, improving life for all

Alyssa Stencavage, L&A&E Editor

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“Yesterday was the beginning of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week. Today, we are walking to raise awareness of the dangers of excessive and underage drinking.”
Walking by the Greenway on Tuesday, Oct. 22, one may have heard these words being spoken by Rhonda Lynch, President of Wilkes’ BACCHUS Club, which educates peers on high-risk behaviors and try to make it a safer place.
BACCHUS doesn’t just exist for alcohol-education purposes. Its mission is to actively promote student and young adult-based campus and community-wide leadership on healthy and safe lifestyle decisions concerning alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs and sexual practices, among other things.
“We want Wilkes students to know that we exist for their benefit and that we only want the best for all of our lives,” Lynch said. “We feel like many students are grossly irresponsible in college and make decisions that will negatively affect them for the rest of their lives. We try to bring awareness to these decisions and their probable consequences and give students safe alternatives.”
Its non-exclusive alcohol focus is part of why the club decided to drop the former BACCHUS acronym of “Boosting Alcohol Consciousness Concerning Health of University Students,” as it inaccurately represents all that the club is about. Lynch said that, being that it is so much more than education, they didn’t want to be restricted that acronym. Considering their familiarity on campus, they didn’t want to have a name change either.
BACCHUS also has a place at club day, and welcomes anyone who is interested in joining. Even if you’re not interested, club members are open to suggestions for new things to focus on.
“We can educate on pretty much anything health-related, and we can always use more opinions,” Lynch said.
BACCHUS is a national organization, and the Wilkes chapter has been active for years. In honor of the countless awareness months and days that exist, Lynch said the club picks events for each semester and tries to provide supplies that correspond with that event.
For example, during the month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Breast Cancer awareness bottles saying “Early Detection is the Best Protection,” along with bracelets and pamphlets were distributed. Prior to fall break, an education table was set up in the SUB so students could learn about the risk factors and symptoms of breast cancer. In hopes of a safe Spring Break for all, Bacchus gave out condoms, and to ensure that everyone takes adequate skin protection measures, sunscreen use was stressed.
“We just try to have a lot of fun with that,” Lynch said.
“Wrap Your Halloweenie” table on Halloween, Diabetes Awareness, National Survivors of Suicide ice cream social celebration, finals’ week massages for stress reduction as well as an educational table that will give people the opportunity to learn proper hand-washing ways are some upcoming events and happenings hosted by BACCHUS.
New things are always happening, and as part of that effort this semester, plans are in the works for events surrounding World Kindness Week. As for what the spring will bring, details aren’t set yet, but stay tuned because BACCHUS isn’t going anywhere.
This club does a lot for the betterment of everyone at Wilkes as well as the community at large, but its efforts continue beyond encouraging people to take the necessary steps to help themselves. As part of breast cancer research, Bacchus Club is also in charge of Lee National Denim Day, which was created by Lee jeans to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Funds collected are used for breast cancer research and finding a cure.
As stated, this club is the one behind the Alcohol Awareness Walk, which is “what we’re most widely known for,” Lynch said.
Part of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness week, the walk is viewed as a positive and powerful event that attracts much needed attention to an often ignored issue.
“The best part is that so many people get involved,” Lynch said. “Sports teams choose to participate in the walk as part of community service, and any Wilkes staff, faculty or student is also welcome. We even had to order more shirts this year because we have such an interested campus.”
Unsurprisingly, this year the walk pulled in 500 participants. Every year the number of participants grows.
The significance of the walk goes beyond the numbers, it is more than just an event on the grounds of Wilkes. It goes broader, into the realm of the community.
“People sitting in their cars notice us, and people have asked us why students are walking,” Lynch said. “It really makes a statement. For those who participate, I hope they feel like they are making a difference. There is a sense of unity, and they are getting educated at the same time.”
And whether a person is affected in any way by the things the club stands for, Lynch said everyone naturally benefits simply because BACCHUS is a peer education group.
“The greater number of educated students, the safer the community,” Lynch said.
However, despite the magnitude of this event, it is the only alcohol-related happening that the club puts together, which reinforces the idea that alcohol is only a segment of where it places its attention.
People see the clear distinction that exists between BACCHUS and other clubs at Wilkes, heavily ingrained in its mission, and the implementation of educational tables has been bringing a greater appreciation overall.
“We’re there for the students’ benefit,” Lynch said. “We’re making a difference at Wilkes and doing our best to break the mold.”
To avoid misconceptions, members want students to understand something.
“We’re not telling them to stop drinking, we’re not telling them to stop having sex, and we’re definitely not trying to be another authority over them,” Lynch said. We want college to be safe and fun. We want everyone to know that this is most certainly possible.”
“We really believe that with a group of dedicated, active members, we can continue to change Wilkes for the better and contribute to a generation of college students who are dedicated to the greater good,” Lynch said.
Observers see the efforts, dedication and commitment this club makes to ensure the well-being of the community that it serves.
“I think Bacchus is great,” Associate Vice President of Marketing Communications Jack Chielli said. “I think what they try to do is very important — promote responsible decision making. I was very impressed by the variety of issues they were willing to raise awareness about — from washing hands to drinking responsibly.  Club members are able to engage and talk to their fellow classmates in a way that parents and university officials can’t.  Quite frankly, the more voices we have talking about the benefits of acting responsibly the better. My hat goes off to them.”
But for as much work as BACCHUS club members put forth, they would like to extend sincere appreciation for club’s advisor Gail Holby, and let her know just how important all of her hard work is to them.
“She puts forth so much energy and doesn’t get nearly the credit she deserves,” Lynch said. “We just want to publicly thank her for her dedication to our cause.”
“I am honored to lead this proactive club in their  effort towards healthy behaviors,” Holby said.

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