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Some of the 410 people who showed up at University of Minnesota Duluth's Malosky Stadium for the second-annual "Make Your Mark: Angels for a Cause" event make snow angels on Sunday. The event raised money for groups that help the homeless. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Hundreds gather in Duluth to make snow angels for a good cause

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They're all angels now.

On cue, 410 people flopped on their backs Sunday afternoon, flailing their arms and legs in the snow covering the field at the University of Minnesota Duluth's Malosky Stadium.

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Besides leaving their heavenly marks on a canvas of white, participants in the second-annual snow angel event also were out to make a mark on their community by raising money for charity.

Although receipts were still being counted Sunday night, the "Make Your Mark: Angels for a Cause" event's proceeds topped $14,000, according to Bob Sherman of the Rotary Club of Duluth.

While participation fell compared with the 1,877 people who took part in last year's snow angel event, Sherman said the fundraiser bested the take from 2013.

Jireh Mabamba, a UMD freshman from the Democratic Republic of Congo and president of the campus Rotoract Club, which spearheaded Sunday's event, said that while many Northland residents may be tired of snow by this point in the winter, the fundraiser demonstrated that "you can turn just about anything into a positive."

Proceeds from the event will go to support efforts to build a homeless center for young people in Duluth.

"On any given night, about 150 kids are out on the streets of Duluth, because they either come from abusive homes or are displaced for other reasons," Sherman said. "It's easy to get down on the world, but to see all these young people out here trying to help homeless kids and their community gives me hope. It's the sort of thing that gets me out of bed in the morning."

Rotoract is an offshoot of the Rotary Club designed to foster community service in young people. Sherman described his involvement as that of a support person at Sunday's event.

"We adults from Rotary provide a bit of wisdom, but the young people from Rotoract provide all the energy," he said.

Madyson Wilke, a UMD freshman who was involved in organizing the event, said: "It's nice to know we're raising money for homeless kids right here in Duluth. It's all for a local cause, and we've received a lot of helpful support from the Greek system and the community at large."

Last year's snow angel fundraiser was organized the Proctor High School DECA, also working in conjunction with the Rotary of Duluth Club 25. Proceeds from that event went to provide a source of clean water for the Hamar people of Ethiopia.

Initially, organizers last year had set out to make the Guinness Book of World Records by beating the turnout at a 2007 snow angel event in Bismarck, N.D., that attracted 8,962 participants.

"We decided to de-emphasize the record-setting aspect this year, because world records, by definition, are so hard to beat," Sherman said. "Instead, we focused on the idea of helping homeless people."

Mabamba said that when he arrived on campus, the UMD Rotoract Club had only one other member besides himself, but the club since has grown and now boasts 25 active members, all of whom helped organize Sunday's fundraiser.

"We saw this event as a way to benefit the community and benefit our own organization, too, by raising our profile," he said. "Giving back is what we're all about as members of Rotoract."

Dan Arbuckle, a Chaska, Minn., resident elected UMD's freshman class president, said underclassmen such as Mabamba are playing increasingly active roles on campus.

"The class of 2017 is remarkable, and we're ready to move mountains," he said.

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