A Time for Gator Greatness

“In All Kinds of Weather,” Gators Lift Each Other

The Aid-a-Gator fund has provided over 2,000 students so far with emergency financial help during the recent global crisis. Jane Sun, CEO of Trip.com Group, was among the hundreds of alumni and other UF friends who contributed. Sun's company has also donated 3 million surgical masks worldwide since March 18.

More than 400 alumni and friends have contributed to Aid-a-Gator during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist students in need.

If there was ever doubt about whether or not Gators really do stick together in all kinds of weather, the COVID-19 storm blowing across the globe this spring should erase that question once and for all.

Aside from the pandemic causing UF’s classes to be moved online and graduation plans to be altered, its toll also forced more than 3,000 students to seek out the university’s Aid-a-Gator program for assistance covering expenses. With a helping hand from alumni and friends, 2,036 of those Gators have received more than $1.7 million in COVID-19 relief, as of mid-April.

In less than a month, contributions to Aid-a-Gator from nearly 450 alumni and friends topped $56,000, with more donations being added every day, to make sure students and UF’s hardest-hit employees have food, shelter and other necessities during the coronavirus lockdown.

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This quick help proved to me the strength of the Gator Nation in hard times.

— Kaylin Bailey, a UF senior who lost her job —

Among those donating: Gator businesswomen Jane Sun and Allison Bergstrom. Sun (BSAC ’92) is CEO of the international travel company Trip.com Group and creator of the Baldwin, Little, Sun and Wu Sunshine Scholarship at the university. Bergstrom (MBA ’96, MHS ’96) is president of Bergstrom Investment Management. Her company is the force behind the Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies at the Warrington College of Business.

“Gators stick together through all kinds of weather, and that has truly been the case as our alumni have stepped up to donate to the Aid-a-Gator fund,” says Zina Evans, UF’s vice president of enrollment management and associate provost. “A contribution to this fund ensures that the Gator Nation continues to grow.”

Established in the wake of Hurricane Irma in 2017 to provide emergency assistance for things like rent, childcare, unforeseen travel and other unanticipated needs, Aid-a-Gator is a temporary life-preserver during troubling times, she explains.

“It’s designed to bridge the gap when unexpected circumstances threaten to disrupt students’ education,” Evans says. “This pandemic has been disruptive in so many ways and we’ve tried to ensure that students have the financial resources they need to continue their education.”

For able Gators wanting to make gifts to the donations-dependent program during the pandemic, the university has outlined a giving guide:

  • $2,500 assists with unexpected medical needs or lost wages.
  • $1,000 helps a student purchase a laptop or offsets moving and storage expenses.
  • $500 helps a student travel home.
  • $100 purchases an e‑textbook or a camera for online classes.
  • $75 provides monthly internet service for online classes.
  • $50 helps a student purchase weekly groceries.
  • $10 provide a student with a meal.

Kaylin Bailey, a senior majoring in telecommunication and political science, is one of the students Aid-a-Gator has assisted during the pandemic. Her lost job meant there was no money for rent, groceries or gas.

“This quick help proved to me the strength of the Gator Nation in hard times,” she says. “I truly believe this school is doing all it can to help students. [Aid-a-Gator] has lifted a huge weight off my shoulders.”