The Denim Day Difference


Amanda Hvidsten

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

University of North Dakota


For scores of us across campus, every other Friday and Wednesday mornings put a certain spring in our steps. It’s Denim Day. Oddly, something about getting to wear jeans to work is exciting. Maybe it takes us back to being kids. Some of us might have memories of private school where there were only a few special days to wear regular clothes instead of the uniform. It makes me reminiscent of my school growing up where chocolate milk was only served on Fridays.

It’s simple, special and it’s something to look forward to.

Denim Day, though, has a lot more to it than feeding our inner child. The core of Denim Day is really to support local charities.

“We collect right around $300 each regular Denim Day and about $500 on average for special Denim Days,” said Cheri Williams, Chair of the Denim Day committee and Administrative Officer in the President’s Office.

Add up the regular Denim Days alone and UND employees raise nearly $8,000 a year.

For $1 per participant, several very deserving local charities get a boost. For 2011, the list includes:

  • Altru Infant and Child Bereavement Program (provides support/services to families who have lost a child)
  • Dakota Science Center (provides science programming to K-12 students)
  • Global Friends Coalition (provides support/services to local refugees)
  • Greater Grand Forks Senior Citizens (provides health/wellness services to older adults)
  • Mountainbrooke Recovery Center (provides wellness/recovery services to adults with a mental illness)
  • ND Chapter for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (provides suicide prevention education and support to survivors of suicide loss)
  • Prairie Harvest Mental Health (provides independence/quality of life services to adults with a mental illness) Safe Kids Grand Forks (provides education/services to prevent unintentional injury or death to children)
  • Special Olympics North Dakota (provides education/services to children and adults with intellectual disabilities)

“It’s really a chance to give to the local community,” said Kristi Swartz, Staff Senate President and Instructional Designer with the Center for Instructional and Learning Technologies (CILT). “We want this to be local – we have special denim days so others can be helped, too, but we really wanted to help out in our community.”

Special Denim Days are held on a case-by-case basis in connection with local or even global opportunities for financial assistance. One example was when the earthquake and Tsunami hit Japan this year. A special Denim Day brought in over $2,300 to support recovery efforts. Contributing that was a group of students from Japan’s Tokai University studying here that raised about $600.

One of the most inspiring parts of Denim Day is the people that contribute financially without the added benefit to themselves. “There are a lot of departments that can’t wear jeans but still give. You have other departments that wear jeans every day because of their jobs and they still give. Look at Facilities - they are great contributors but they still wear their uniforms,” said Swartz.

Though it has been around since 1994, this year marks the first time Staff Senate has coordinated Denim Day for campus. “I’ve been here for nine years and in my second year I became involved in the old Denim Day,” said Williams. “When President Kelley asked Staff Senate to take it on, I was already on Staff Senate and familiar with Denim Day operations so it made sense to keep continuity, and President Kelley asked me to chair the new Denim Day Committee under Staff Senate.”

The ten-member committee set the dates for each month and selects the Denim Day charities each year (based on applications).

More than 60 volunteers across campus help the committee efforts by posting flyers, sending reminders to fellow employees, collecting donations from individuals every Denim Day, and turning in the donations to the Denim Day Committee Chair.

“You really have to look at the site coordinators for our success. They do a fantastic job and we rely on them a lot,” said Swartz. “Before Staff Senate worked on this, the site coordinators were really out there doing a lot on their own.”

It’s a fun way to express our philanthropic nature and the visual impact of hundreds of denim-clad employees is important, too.

Swartz added, “We have buttons, too, so even if you are dressed up you can still wear one and show solidarity that way. If you walk through Twamley and see people wearing jeans or buttons, you know something is going on. It’s a reminder that we are supporting something good.”

So grab your dollar and your favorite pair of Levi’s. It’s the chance to make a difference. As Swartz says, “One of the things I always push is that individually, we can’t do it, but put everyone together and we can do a lot. Together UND can really help out the local community.”