CAN YOU HELP
Students are still working to raise money for the trip. Anyone interested in contributing should get in touch with Rachel Decker in the Ave Maria department of institutional advancement. She can be reached on email at Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone through the main AMU number 239-280-2500.
"Our prayers were answered," was the most frequent comment from Ave Maria University students as they boarded three buses Friday evening for a long overnight trip to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life Monday.
Just 18 hours earlier, the trip - which AMU students have taken every year - was in doubt after the Charter Bus R Us company in Virginia, with whom the Students for Life organization had contracted for the trip, abruptly canceled it with no explanation, after cashing the students' check for $18,500. The charter company did not return calls seeking an explanation and trip organizer Joshua Johanni said that as of Friday evening, they still had not explained why they canceled the trip or whether they intended to return the money.
The situation on Thursday morning - just after the students received the cancellation notice - was daunting. They would need to find alternative transportation on short notice and also figure out how they would pay for the trip, given that all the money they had raised and contributed was gone.
But by late Thursday, they had made arrangements to hire an Orlando bus company that had buses available to make the trip. Students used phones, email and Facebook messages to solicit contributions from friends and family to help pay the additional cost of about $20,000. Members of the Ave Maria community also chipped in, and Ave Maria University said it would make up the difference, enabling the trip to go on as planned.
"This trip is such an important activity for our students," said university vice president and Dean of Students Dan Dentino. "We had to do something."
Ave Maria University has always had a large number of students at the March for Life but this year's contingent of 155 is the largest in the university's history.
University President Jim Towey was supportive, as well.
""When you have 155 students prepared to travel for days, sleep on a wooden gym floor in Virginia, to do this, then we feel an obligation to make this work," Mr. Towey said.
The university is in touch with law enforcement authorities regarding the actions of the first bus company, Mr. Towey said.
Before the students boarded the buses, Father Robert Garrity, AMU's director of campus ministry, blessed them and praised their perseverance in finding a way to make the trip.
"God wanted you to be on these buses," he said with a touch of humor, "Not those other buses."
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Note: The students are still working to raise money for the trip. Anyone interested in contributing should get in touch with Rachel Decker in the Ave Maria department of institutional advancement. She can be reached on email at Rachel.email@example.com or by phone through the main AMU number 239-280-2500.
David Shnaider and his wife Patricia Sette are Ave Maria residents who founded community news Web site AveHerald.com in November 2008. Contact David and Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org