Little Wildcat Weekend, a University tradition, welcomed over 120 participants for a three-day event that included numerous activities designed to bring close relatives and current students together this past weekend.
Visiting younger family members were able to stay with students in their residence halls and eat meals in the dining halls, allowing the visitors to truly immerse themselves in University life.
The Campus Activities Team, the largest student-run organization on campus, planned the weekend. It was responsible for arranging events designed to bring students together in both University and local community settings.
The group regularly hosts weekly events, such as Happy Friday and Live Music Thursdays, and large-scale functions such as the fall and spring concerts and the upcoming Feb. 26 “Love the Skin You’re In Fashion Festival.”
Rachel Mannix, a senior engineer, hosted her 11-year-old brother, Emmett. “He lives for this,” Mannix said. “He’s been coming every year since I was a freshman, so he was very upset that this would be his last time as a Little Wildcat.”
The Little Wildcat Weekend was spearheaded by senior Andrew Carroll and junior Jennifer Engelhart, both of whom worked diligently throughout the year to ensure that the weekend was a success from both a Big ’Cat and a Little ’Cat standpoint despite the inclement Friday night weather.
“Planning involved brainstorming events and games that younger kids as well as middle-school aged kids would all enjoy, Englehart said. “We tried to plan trips and events that would appeal to this age range, as well as keep the Big ’Cats engaged.”
Logistically, the two coordinated with the University and departments such as Dining Services to confirm that the timing and the location of the events were satisfactory.
In addition, they were tasked with monitorizing the registration system and maximizing the outreach of the program, though many, such as Mannix, look forward to the special weekend throughout the year.
According to Carroll, one of the major issues the two encountered was the snowstorm. In order to account for this, the registration time was extended and the location of the planned ice skating was moved to an indoor rink closer to campus.
The weather, however, was fortunately not a problem for senior Wesleigh Donadio from Florida. Donadio’s 11-year-old sibling visited for the second time, as she was enamored with the experience last year that she wanted to participate again.
“My brother and I are both away at college so she doesn’t get to see us a lot because we live in Florida so Villanova is far way,” Donadio said. “Younger siblings and younger family members look up to us because we are older and go to college…It’s special to them because they can visit and see what Villanova is like.”
This special event also allows siblings to get a glimpse of campus life, showing them how their siblings spend time nine months out of the year. According to Donadio, it allows siblings a chance to meet her friends and see the campus.
“Hopefully she will be a future ‘Nationer,’” Donadio said.
The three-day event allows the University to spread its message of community and connection beyond just the current students, but this is not its main intention.
“The purpose of this weekend is to bring families together on campus and give younger siblings the chance to experience the lives of their older siblings here,” said Kevin O’Leary, the president of CAT.
The weekend kicked off on Friday, Jan. 25 with ice skating and bowling at Devon Lanes.
Following this outing, Connelly Center Cinema screened “Toy Story” and the “Lion King“ from 7-9 p.m., and the evening concluded with live entertainment until 10:30 p.m.
The entertainment featured a magician, a caricaturist, Wii games and food.
Saturday also failed to disappoint, as visitors and students watched the Wildcats upset the No. 3 Syracuse Orange at a watch party with pizza in Connelly Center.
“As the game went on, it definitely got intense, especially for the Big ’Cats,” Engelhart said. “The atmosphere was great after we won—Little ’Cats, students and parents all celebrated together.”
Following the exciting game, students and their relatives were treated to a production of “Cinderella” in Philadelphia, and then a carnival in the Villanova Room.
“The kids got a chance to run around with their older siblings and family members, doing the obstacle course, riding giant tricycles and even playing some giant Twister,” Engelhart said. “It’s great to see the kid in everyone come out at this event as families have fun together.”
In addition to these activities, the carnival had music, face painting and interactive video games such as Dance Dance Revolution.
“We also had a photo booth with dress-up hats and accessories which was a big hit,” Engelhart said. “Mickey and Minnie Mouse as well as Will D. Cat made surprise visits.”
The successful and fun annual weekend concluded with a Mass on Sunday morning.
“It’s quality time with my brother in my apartment instead of at home with our parents,” Mannix said. “It’s great for younger siblings to be able to hang out with us and see what college life is like.”