This past Saturday afternoon, UCSB students participated in the Pho-ntastic Noodles fundraiser, an independently planned charity event to raise money for nonprofit organization American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
The event was initiated by third-year political science major Jason Bao, who, along with a group of friends and other volunteers, led a collaborated effort to cook and sell Vietnamese Pho noodles and fried dumplings. Since Bao’s family has been affected by cancer, he chose to raise money for Relay for Life in order to lend his efforts towards fighting the disease.
Bao said the idea originally came to him when he realized that he had the resources available to organize an effort to help his mother, who was diagnosed with cancer two years ago.
“[We fundraised] for Relay for Life right now for cancer awareness and to try to help find a cure. My mother was actually diagnosed with cancer two years ago,” Bao said. “Basically when she first got diagnosed, I felt like I couldn’t do anything about it, but as I got older I realized that, you know, if people help me out and if everyone has a good heart, we can all get together and do good things.”
Because Bao’s mother originally taught him to make pho, he decided that serving the noodle dish for charity would be a fitting tribute. Bao said the charity group, which is nicknamed Team Momma Bao, plans to organize many fundraisers in order to reach their goal for the year.
“I think we spent about a $120 to get all the ingredients and stuff and right now we are sitting on around $425 so right now we raised about $300 for this event,” Bao said. “We are trying to do some follow-up events. We want to raise $1000 by May 15, which may be a little ambitious but why not aim for something high but try to do something good?”
The event had many volunteers and received a steady stream of customers, with students and friends eager to raise money for the cause. Second-year political science major Debra Kim came to eat with a group of friends and was pleased with the students’ culinary efforts.
“I thought the food was great!” Kim said.” I didn’t get to try the pho but the dumplings were very good.”
In order to make the amount of pho needed for the fundraiser, the students needed a reliable team of volunteers and a large kitchen to be able to deliver. JJ Barnet, a third-year chemistry major and volunteer at the pho sale, said he dedicated his time to help out a friend.
“One of my bro’s moms has cancer, so I’m just here trying to help out,” Barnet said. “Sean Lee, over there washing the dishes, his mother owns a restaurant, so she kind of donated $50 worth of dumplings to us.”
According to Bao, his effort was made possible by community participation and the students’ willingness to come out and support his cause.
“I’m just really happy that all my friends came out to support me. Like you know everyone who may not even be hungry or like pho, they came out just to show support for such a good cause and you coming out and covering the story,” Bao said.” I’m just glad, you know, people in I.V. — it’s kind of crazy sometimes but they still get together and do some good things.”
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of January 14th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.