By Connie White

Tom Thompson spent the morning of June 2 organizing kitchen supplies and cleaning the indoor splash pad at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI).

For him, the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Day of Service is personal.

His daughter, Marissa, 18, received speech and occupational therapy at MMI early in her life and attends Camp Munroe at MMI, which provides advocacy and services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This spring, Marissa, who has Down Syndrome, graduated from Westside High School and will continue to visit MMI as part of the Transition program through her high school that will enhance her semi-independent life skills and further develop her job skills through pre-vocational services.

“I love being over here at MMI,” said Thompson, senior director of development for UNMC. “I have a daughter who has benefitted from all the work that they do. If there is even one thing I can do to help the staff who are so focused on the kids and the people they’re helping every day, I’m happy to do it.”

On June 2, foundation employees celebrated the organization’s 87th birthday by planting flowers and pulling weeds, organizing the shelves at student food pantries and writing letters of support to first-generation students, as well as other activities. As part of Day of Service, employees assisted 20 university affiliates and organizations with projects at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Kearney and UNMC.

The University of Nebraska Foundation was established June 3, 1936, as a private, nonprofit organization to serve the university system. The annual service day, in its eighth year, was created to celebrate and commemorate the foundation’s founding.

Before foundation employees fanned out across the campuses, Brian F. Hastings, president and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation, expressed his gratitude during a morning staff meeting held via Zoom.

“Thanks for what you do each and every day for the University of Nebraska,” Hastings said. “Whether you’ve participated in Day of Service before, or you’re a newer employee doing this for the first time, it’s great to have you.”

Kristen Rock, director of donor experience and recognition, spent her morning making candygrams for high school students participating in summer camps as part of UNL’s Nebraska College Preparatory Academy (NCPA). She and other volunteers attached KitKats, Starbursts and packages of gum to posters with messages such as “You Are Awesome!” and “You Are a Super Star!!!”

NCPA is a college access program that prepares first-generation students from income-eligible families for college and their future careers. NCPA’s college scholars receive full financial assistance to pay the cost of college, including tuition, books, room and board, and fees.

“I love helping this incredible program through our Day of Service. I’m so happy to welcome these summer students to campus with these candygrams. It’s an opportunity to give back and be creative,” Rock said.

Jasmine Alexander, assistant director of development for UNMC, volunteered in the Maverick Food Pantry on the UNO campus.

She and other employees unloaded food and stocked the shelves of the pantry, which serves the UNO, UNMC and College of St. Mary communities.

“The community service project gave me the opportunity to see the work we do at the foundation come to life,” Alexander said. “It motivated me to want to do more for the Maverick Food Pantry and encourage others to know how significant their contributions to this program can be for years to come.”

What Others Are Saying

Karey Koehn, director of internal communications and Day of Service coordinator

“This is one day that our employees complete volunteer projects on all University of Nebraska campuses, and it’s a chance to connect firsthand with our organizational mission to enable the university to change lives and save lives. Foundation employees have a passion for serving University of Nebraska students and programs, and our annual Day of Service is a terrific opportunity to make a real difference on the UNO, UNMC, UNL and UNK campuses.”

Rich Brodersen, director of development for UNK

“My favorite aspect of Day of Service is the opportunity to work with our team outside of the office in a positive and uplifting way. It’s a fulfilling way of giving back to our community and university.”

Ed Rider, director of communications

Rider cleaned the toddlers’ playground and splashpad equipment at MMI. His family has personal ties to the institute because both his children were volunteers at MMI, and son Nate works there while studying special education at UNO. Rider said he likes connecting with organizations that the foundation serves during Day of Service.

“We get to go out and interact with the people that we’re helping to raise funds for all year long.”

About the University of Nebraska Foundation

The University of Nebraska Foundation grows relationships and resources that enable the University of Nebraska to change lives and save lives. During the most recent fiscal year, a record 60,571 donors gave $300.6 million to the foundation to aid UNK, UNO, UNL, UNMC and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine, and NCTA. The foundation raises more than $7 for every $1 spent. Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future is its current campaign with a goal to raise $3 billion from 150,000 unique benefactors to support the University of Nebraska. More information is at