USU students fundraising for relief efforts in Japan

Vanilla Ice isn’t the only one that can pull off a shaved steps hairdo anymore. This week, hundreds of Utah State University students are sporting steps in their hair in support of victims from the recent Japanese disaster. STEPS, a new charity club formed by several Utah State University students this semester, has raised $7,000 in a week to go toward the relief effort in Japan. Students paid $5 to have steps braided or shaved into their hair, or $10 for a haircut, and all proceeds will benefit a charity giving humanitarian aid in Japan. One of the founding members of STEPS, Keenan Nuehring, said, “Originally, we wanted to find financial relief for families in Cache Valley who have children with terminal illnesses. We were planning on launching in the fall, but the disaster in Japan happened, and we decided we had to do something now.” The group had some infrastructure and a volunteer base setup, Nuehring said. STEPS partnered with Maximum Style Tec School of Logan from which 10-13 hair stylists donated their time and skill over the course of a week to help raise the funds. They have put hundreds of STEPS in students’ hair. The idea for hair steps is symbolic, Jackson Cozzens said. Cozzens said the three steps represent the goals of the group: relieve financial burdens of families, educate the community on the issue and unify the community around the issue. Cozzens said, “When we are doing a fundraiser, people in support of STEPS wear them in their hair. We want it to be as familiar and recognizable as say the pink ribbon for breast cancer.” Nuehring said STEPS has not used any of the received donations to fund the effort, but rather they have used money from their own pockets when needed. Initially, STEPS was going to give the money to the Japanese Red Cross, but due to some difficulties working with the non-profit, STEPS is looking to give the money to Doctors Without Borders. Miss Cache Valley, Stephanie Romney, was among those getting her hair braided Thursday. “I’m a student here and I heard about this event from students on Facebook,” Romney said. “I thought this is a good idea because anyone can help out Japan this way, and why not come get some awesome hair too?” STEPS will do another fundraiser day next week at the USU Mountainview Towers with “the idea of bringing the hairdos to the freshmen,” Cozzens said. The ultimate fundraising goal for the Japan relief effort is $15,000. STEPS will work to meet this goal by doing a carnival-style event April 9, Nuehring said. “We are doing the Peanut Butter in Japan Jam where the community can come and play games, eat carnival food and even take pictures with Big Blue, Miss Cache Valley and the basketball teams,” Nuehring said. Cozzens said many local businesses are donating to the April 9 event, such as Café Sabor. The restaurant will donate 20 percent of their profit over three nights of business for the upcoming event. STEPS will work to become a certified non-profit organization this summer and get more involved with community non-profits. “We wanted to start a group that would help people,” Cozzens said. “Hopefully we can leave something setup in the USU Service Center that other students can take over when we leave USU.” Contact STEPS at stepsforrelief@gmail.com or call 801-623-8269, or find them on Facebook under STEPS.

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