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West Liberty ‘Operation Unless’ improves campus, community

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What do you get when you mix a dorm full of college guys and a community in need?

At West Liberty University, you get a successful three-year outreach effort and awareness of the reward found in helping others.

Operation Unless began when Boyd Hall Resident Director Kyle Cook was deciding on a community service project for his staff and residents to take part in. He realized that everyone was passionate about a different cause, so how would they choose?

Then Cook watched the animated film "The Lorax," based on the well-known Dr. Seuss story, and he came up with an idea.

"Why not do it all?" Cook asked. His staff of seven resident assistants agreed and joined him in planning Operation Unless.

"Just as the Lorax says in the story, ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not,'" Cook said.

The idea is to help as many people as possible, he said.

"The staff collected money in all of the residence halls on our campus and chose a day dedicated to collecting money in the College Union. This raised $650, which was split into four $160 donations," explained Cook, a senior music education major from Bellaire, Ohio.

One donation will go to the West Liberty University Art Department for Wheeling beautification projects designed by students, faculty and staff. Another will be delivered to the Wounded Warriors Project, a national organization dedicated to helping wounded members of our nation's Armed Forces.

The third charity is the Hancock County Animal Shelter. Boyd Hall staff members will also will donate a few hours of assistance to the shelter staff and animals.

The fourth donation will go to St. Jude's Research Children's Hospital.

Boyd Hall staff found it important to include children into the program; however, there is a deeper meaning to this charity.

In 2010, WLU's Director of Housing and Associate Dean of Students Marcella Snyder was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

"To see Marcella fight through this horrible cancer with bravery and a positive attitude was something that the Boyd Hall staff has never forgotten," Cook said.

"Also in our community, just one day after her high school graduation in May 2012, Allison Martin's life was put on hold. As an 18-year old from Bellaire, Ohio, Ally was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and has been battling the disease since," he added. "Both of these ladies have made such an impact on the Boyd Hall staff that the check will actually be made in honor of their bravery, optimism and genuine personalities."

Boyd Hall also is planning a day to volunteer with children in the area. They also hosted a clothing drive across campus, with proceeds donated to Wheeling's House of the Carpenter. Other projects include hosting a day on the farm for children at risk and a campus-wide anti-bullying campaign.

Working with Cook are Resident Assistants Bryan Gasaway, Jeshua Irazabal, Kyle Lutz, Tannon Mossor, Evan Newman, Jeffrey Tice and Griffin Yocum.