Growing Family Weekend adds ‘Family of the Year’ award, 5k race

A handmade sign greets those attending last year's Family Weekend. (Kevin Loker)

One student’s family will leave a dinner ceremony Friday with a plaque stating they are the ‘Family of the Year.’ As expected attendance numbers grow for Family Weekend, the office running the annual program has added an award to honor Patriot families and their contribution to student success.

The Family of the Year Award, given in honor of the Merten family, goes to the winner of a new essay contest run by Family Programs and Services, the department which puts on Family Weekend. In addition to the commemorative plaque, award recipients walk away with waived fees to Mason Family Association and for Family Weekend registration, as well as a $250 gift certificate for Mason’s bookstore.

“[The award] symbolizes the weekend as a whole,” said Jennifer Burns, graduate assistant for Family Programs and Services. “”… It’s a way to show that we appreciate [Mason families] for all the support they have.”

Family Weekend, a series of events at Mason designed to show visiting family members “what it’s like to be a Patriot,” kicks off Friday, Oct. 14. Events run through Sunday, Oct. 16 and highlight a variety of departments and organizations on campus. The weekend always coincides with Mason Madness, a pep rally event marking the “start” of the Patriots basketball season.

Numbers for Family Weekend have increased over the past three years from a few hundred families to over 1,500, according to Kaitlin Oyler, assistant director of Family Programs and Services. Around 2,000 people are expected to be in attendance at Family Weekend this year, Oyler told Connect2Mason Friday.

As numbers grow, Family Programs and Services has added other events to the weekend’s traditional “big” events (its brunch, wine tasting, and “Taste of Fairfax,” which features food from nearby restaurants, all which are covered by the weekend’s registration fee of $42). A larger addition this year is a 5k Run or Walk. For an extra $20 – which includes a long-sleeve t-shirt and more food – participants receive “chip-in-your-shoe” timing and can win a raffle for Pacer’s Running Store. The first place male and female automatically receive $30 gift certificates.

Anyone may register and participate in the 5k Run or Walk, not just those attending Family Weekend.

“Any- and everyone can [race],” said Burns. “It’s open to whoever would like to do it.”

In recent years, a comic show has been scheduled during the same weekend as Family Weekend. This year’s comic is Wanda Sykes.

Burns said the weekend provides an avenue for students to go and enjoy a weekend with their family without having to do a lot of work.

“Families do want to feel an integrated part of a student’s life,” said Burns. “That’s why they call you [and] send you packages. I think it’s a really great opportunity to take advantage of what the school is offering and … show part of what you’re living right now and have them feel a part of it.”

When it comes to registering, pretty much anyone can count as “family,” according to Burns. This can mean blood relatives or just friends—anyone a student feels would like to enjoy the activities with them.

“Family means different things to different people,” said Burns.

Online registration will close Tuesday, Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. If someone misses the deadline, he or she may register and pay the day of the event. Registration fees are only $42 per individual, excluding students and faculty. For students and faculty, registration is free.

Students or faculty attending events are encouraged to register online.


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