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Don't Worry, Be Happy

Happiness Club gives students a reason to smile with bubbles, kickball and silent dance parties

June 14, 2010 | by Matt Paolelli

On a warm and sunny day in May, 30 Northwestern students gathered outside the Technological Institute, turned on their iPods and danced to the beat of a drummer no one else could hear.

The Silent Dance Party was the first of several offbeat spring events organized by the Happiness Club, a student group with a simple mission -- increase the overall happiness of the Northwestern community.

"It's just to make people feel happier, and it does it in the simplest possible ways," said Weinberg sophomore Paul Geringer.

The group celebrated Happiness Week from May 24 to 28 with a series of events designed to bring the campus together or simply elicit smiles.

In advance of the festivities, club members organized a nighttime expedition to chalk the mile-long stretch of Sheridan Road that runs along the Evanston campus. The following morning, students walking to class were greeted by inspirational quotes, hopscotch games and, of course, lots of smiley faces.

"We had over 500 pieces of chalk in a shopping cart and chalked for four hours," said Alex Wilson, a Weinberg sophomore and Happiness Club president. "We got a really positive response from people."

Earlier in the quarter, the Happiness Club applied for and won a "Be the Change" grant from the Center for Student Involvement. The grants fund student group projects that seek to improve the Northwestern experience through campus beautification, community building and creativity.

The funding allowed the club to dream bigger for Happiness Week. The celebration kicked off with Magical Bubbles Monday and Temporary Tattoosday. Students had the chance to blow bubbles by the Rock between classes and lined up to receive smiley face temporary tattoos. The highlight of the week was Thursday's Nametag Day, when club members distributed 8,000 nametags -- enough for everyone on campus.

"We encouraged everyone on campus to wear a nametag on Thursday, just to increase openness and make the campus a friendlier place," said Kyle Richardson, a McCormick sophomore and Happiness Club executive board member.

The week concluded with "Flashback Friday" on Deering Meadow. Students played kickball and jumped rope while indulging in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other childhood treats.

Everyone was smiling.

"It's really cool, because just saying that we have a Happiness Club gets people to smile," Wilson said. "And that's kind of the point -- just to get people to smile, help alleviate stress and build a closer community."

Topics: Campus Life, People