Every year, Oklahoma Christian University hosts Homecoming to all students, faculty and alumni. A large part of homecoming resides within the philanthropy project. This year, that philanthropy project hits close to home.
Philanthropy Director Mary Ellen Stolte said this year’s philanthropy project is to remember the beloved past student Karla Ramirez and her love for intramurals.
“Earlier this year, Oklahoma Chrsitian lost a bright light when senior Karla Ramirez passed away. Karla was a beloved friend to many and an active participant in intramurals,” Stolte said. “In honor of her, we are raising money to purchase a memorial bench, an engraved stone and landscaping for the bench area. The location will be at the intramural fields, evidently, one of her favorite places. Although she is no longer on campus, cheering everyone on at intramural games, we remember her with love. This bench will be a constant reminder of Karla’s light on this campus.”
In addition to the memorial bench, the philanthropy project is also aiming to provide funds for another well-loved cause in remembrance of Joe deSteiguer. The fund, started in 2015, was named Joe’s Compassion Fund.
“This endowment is established in memory of Joe deSteiguer to assist students of Oklahoma Christian University through special consideration aid for students wrestling with personal tragedy, mental health concerns or other crisis scenarios that could put the student or their involvement at Oklahoma Christian at risk,” Stolte said.
With the memorial bench, Stolte said Ramirez is the most deserving of being remembered for her lasting love for the people on this campus.
“Philanthropy is defined as the desire to promote the welfare of others. Karla was involved, loved and donated most of her time to this school and the students that go here,” Stolte said. “Being able to have a permanent object to remember her by, even though she is no longer here, is important to everyone who knew her and loved her. For the students who did not know Karla, they are able to see how deeply we care for the students that go here. There are good things that money can go to on campus: this project was chosen to honor and show love to a student who loved this school.”
Homecoming Director Heather Sparks said that philanthropy is all about having a chance to create lasting change.
“Philanthropy is a very important part of homecoming as different groups on campus contribute to make change,” Sparks said.
With the sudden death of Ramirez, Sparks said the homecoming team wants to remind students of Ramirez’s unforgettable presence on campus.
“Many of our students who were able to know and love Karla now have a permanent structure to remind us of the light she brought to this campus. This is a mark on campus to remind us of the mark that she left on our hearts,” Sparks said. “The extra funds will go into Joe’s Compassion fund.”
Sparks has a special connection with Ramirez and said she hopes the engraved bench can serve as an observance in her deeply-felt absence.
“I hope it shows how loved and cherished Karla was. The student body still aches in her absence. Placing the bench around the intramural field is a great spot to honor her, as many of us knew her as ‘Karla the Ref,’” Sparks said. “Karla was one of my roommates last year, getting the privilege to live with her and knowing her was an honor. This bench, engraved with Colossians 3:23 will represent her love for others and celebrate her impact on campus.”
As this year’s philanthropy project is close to many, Sparks said the meaningful impact behind this year’s project is a compilation of both a celebration of a life and close unity within the student body.
“There are multiple meaningful purposes that are encompassed within the philanthropy project this year,” Sparks said. “One is to show support to Karla Ramirez’s family and celebrate her life in any way that we can. Another is to exemplify the impact she made on campus by putting in a permanent bench and verse in her honor. And thirdly, to unify as a campus to work towards a project together in honor and support of our beloved student body.”
Sparks said she is grateful for the chance to participate in such a meaningful project alongside the homecoming team.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity to have such a meaningful philanthropy project. I am excited to take on this project with my fellow classmates and faculty,” Sparks said.