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Operation H.E.A.R.T.S. stumps crowd at Trivia Night fundraiser

What is the sequel to Gary Paulsen’s novel, “Hatchet?”

“The River.”

How many Californias could fit inside Alaska?


In the ancient Mediterranean world, there was no soap. An item normally found in the kitchen was used for washing the body. What was it?

Olive oil.

These were just a handful of the questions asked to a packed Bear’s Den Pub on Friday night, Feb. 26, as the University of Maine’s Operation H.E.A.R.T.S. hosted a Trivia Night fundraiser to raise money for their annual volunteer service trip.

The organization — whose acronym stands for “Hands on Educational Association Reaching out Through Service” — is a medically-based service student organization comprised entirely of students who have a passion for service and volunteerism. The group completes service projects in various locations throughout Maine each semester, and travels every May to complete volunteer projects in different U.S. cities. This year, the group will travel to Buffalo, N.Y. to volunteer at hospitals and local nonprofit organizations.

“This money that we raise tonight will go to our different volunteer projects, for gas and supplies that we need, but also for our trip in May. We’re going to Buffalo, N.Y., this year, and we’re going to be volunteering at various places throughout the Buffalo area,” Joe Claar, a fourth-year nursing student and vice president of Operation H.E.A.R.T.S., said.

The organization, which was founded five years ago, works to connect students who have interests in the medical fields to the community, and allows students hands-on work in their fields of interest. The group has a formal application process, and had 17 members as of fall 2015.

This past year, Operation H.E.A.R.T.S. completed a number of projects, from hosting a Halloween party for children at Acadia Hospital in Bangor, to working with nursing home residents in Ellsworth. The group went north to Houlton to organize products at a local community-based organization that supplies goods to those in need, and also donated toiletries to the center. The organization raffled off Valentine’s Day gift baskets in the week leading up to the holiday. Just a few weeks ago, they headed south to Portland, where they worked with patients of the Iris Network, a live-in facility that offers counseling and various forms of vision rehabilitation therapy to patients with vision loss.

“We learned a lot [at the Iris Network],” Claar said. “We talked with patients, we played games with them, we read them the newspaper . . . There was a really great educational aspect to that one.”

Friday’s Trivia Night featured four rounds of trivia questions of varying difficulty, with bonus questions offered in between each round. For $5, groups of up to four players could imbibe in their favorite beers, munch on plates of nachos and casually sip lattes while answering questions for points. Questions ranged from the standards of geography, history and literature to more complex categories, such as biology — did you know sour milk tastes so because bacteria “devour” the lactose in the milk? You might be rethinking that latte.

The team who answered the most questions and earned the most points took home half of the money raised from the event.

Claar, whose job puts him in charge of fundraising, estimates the group raised about $1,500 in the fall semester. Events that contributed to their earnings included a “Breakfast with Santa,” hosted in the North Pod of the Memorial Union, and a “Noche Mexicana” fundraiser co-sponsored by Margaritas Restaurant in Orono. Both fundraisers took place in December.

Claar said he was hopeful the Trivia Night would bring in funds — meanwhile, the group ran out of pens for the many still-arriving players, 33 in total who showed up to support the organization. The group raised $165 before splitting the earnings and sending the winning group home with half the lot, thereby earning a total of $82 for the night. Claar said he was pleased with the end results.

“We’re hoping to do this event again in the near future,” Claar said. “This was our first time hosting the event so I think we had a pretty good turnout. I think this event has a lot of potential to grow.”

Emily St. Pierre, a medical lab sciences student and executive trip planner for Operation H.E.A.R.T.S., estimates the group will need to raise about $3,500 in total to fund the trip. The trip will include service projects at the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo; Unyts, an organ, eye, blood and tissue procurement center; and the Ronald McDonald House of Buffalo, which houses family members of hospitalized children during their hospital stays. The group will also work in soup kitchens amid several other volunteer efforts.

“We’re really helping at the local, state and national level, and that’s something I really love about Operation H.E.A.R.T.S.,” Emily Whitaker, a fourth-year biochemistry student and president of the organization, said at the event.

“[Operation H.E.A.R.T.S.] gives us an ‘in’ into the medical field, and we get to volunteer. It’s something we’re all passionate about,” St. Pierre said. “We’re all in the medical majors so it’s really cool to see the different aspects and volunteer. You feel good doing it.”


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