When a tragedy strikes the Akron community, love, support and charity never fail to shine through.
It’s been a little more than a year since University of Akron student, Uniontown native and 2012 Springfield High School graduate Zak Husein, 21, was killed in an armed robbery at his family owned pizza shop in December 2015.
The following April, students took the initiative to honor his life with a charity event that raised $14,000 and brought together more than 450 people to package 40,000 meals that were distributed to developing areas around the world in his name.
This year, the event is being organized again, this time to commemorate both Husein as well as Duncan Unternaher, 23, a fellow University of Akron student who was stabbed to death by his roommate in December. Husein and Unternaher were friends, both students of UA's College of Business Administration. Unternaher had attended the April 2016 charity event for Husein, helping to package meals in honor of his friend.
Several University of Akron student organizations are working together to plan what will now be called "UA Remembrance Day," a project that will continue to run every year to remember those who were lost from the university family.
The primary drivers are two professional student organizations, Pi Sigma Epsilon, a co-ed sales and marketing fraternal organization, and the student chapter of the American Marketing Association. Other organizations such as the Muslim Student Association, Phi Delta Theta and Campus Focus are also involved. Last year, nearly 50 organizations were represented.
Student Justin Cohen and Associate Professor of Marketing and International Business Douglas Hausknecht are responsible for the idea to create a charity event, and both believe it is necessary for it to continue. The two are leading the progress of the event planning between all involved members.
"Last year, I saw and heard the reaction to the event," Hausknecht said. "Being able to actively participate in service that had direct benefit to someone in need was very moving for many there. Whether they were friends, acquaintances of Zak, a friend of a friend, or had no connection whatsoever, people responded to the feeling of doing something good for someone else in his name. After that event, we on the committee intended to propose a recurring such event for anyone lost from the University of Akron family whether students, faculty, staff, retiree, alum, etc."
Cohen said the event is important in order to give compassion toward our loved ones who have passed and to show the strength of the community.
"It's important to let their legacy continue to impact and inspire people to live with gratitude for what we have, and to live every moment with love and compassion for all those around us," Cohen said.
To reach a goal of 50,000 meals, a total of $14,500 needs to be raised before the April 26 event. Volunteers are also needed on the day of the event to measure rice, seal bags, and package boxes, which is made possible by an organization called Rise Against Hunger.
Volunteers are encouraged to attend the April 26 event held at The University of Akron Student Union at 6:30 p.m. To learn more about UA Remembrance Day and how to donate, visit http://uaremembranceday.weebly.com.
Tax-deductible contributions can be made in memory of Duncan Unternaher, Zak Husein or others by listing a name in the dropdown at https://commerce.cashnet.com/orgwander.
Checks can be made to The University of Akron with a notation for the Husein-Unternhaer event and the name of the person to be remembered. Mail checks to Husein-Unternaher c/o The Source, 303 E. Carroll St., Akron, OH 44325-4601.