Hokies United, an alliance of Virginia Tech student organizations that previously banded together to assist those in need, ranging from earthquake and tidal wave victims in Indonesia to survivors of Hurricane Katrina, is now launching an effort to honor local law enforcement and assist the families of two individuals who represent the highest tradition of the phrase "to protect and serve."

Montgomery Regional Hospital security guard, Derrick McFarland, and Montgomery County Sheriff's Department deputy, Corporal Eric Sutphin, were both killed in the line of duty on August 20-21 while attempting to safeguard not only residents of the county and beyond, but also the thousands of Virginia Tech students, faculty, and staff who were returning for the start of fall semester on August 21.

As a way of expressing the university's gratitude for the sacrifices made by these heroic individuals, and to honor the many like them who work tirelessly to assure the safety of their communities, Hokies United is undertaking a week-long fundraising campaign to provide for the families that McFarland and Sutphin left behind. Both men are survived by their wives, and each man also leaves behind two young children.

"Here's a chance for the entire university community to express their support for these brave men and to honor them in a fitting and lasting way," said Sumeet Bagai, a senior majoring in business management in the Pamplin College of Business and organizer of the Hokies United fundraising effort. "I believe that everyone who was at Virginia Tech over the weekend and for the first day of classes this past Monday recognizes, in a very direct and personal way, just how bad things could have been had these two men not placed the safety of others above their own personal well-being."

The Hokies United initiative "Honoring Those Who Protect and Serve" will be launched at the Student Organization Showcase to be held Friday, August 25, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Commonwealth Ballroom of Squires Student Center. A "Blue Ribbon Campaign" will be started at this event to raise awareness and collect monetary donations for the Derrick McFarland and Eric Sutphin memorial funds.

One goal is to distribute as many blue ribbons as possible over the next week, and to then have everyone attending the Hokie football team season opener on Saturday, Sept. 2, wear their ribbon to show the entire nation that Virginia Tech cares and is appreciative. A related goal is to collect as many contributions as possible for donation to the respective memorial funds.

A 20 foot by four foot banner will also be displayed at the Squires event, and all those who participate will be invited to sign the banner to show their gratitude for the efforts of McFarland and Sutphin, and to provide personal affirmation of their support for local law enforcement that strives to protect and serve around the clock on a daily basis.

Other events in the week-long fundraising effort include:

Saturday, August 26:
==> Ribbons distributed, donations collected, and banner available to sign from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Residential Hall Federation’s “Campus Kick-Off” event on the Prairie Quad.

Monday, August 28:
==> Ribbons distributed and donations collected at tables around campus from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The banner will be available to sign at the Drillfield.

==> Sharkey’s Wing and Rib Joint Benefit. Sharkey's will donate 10 percent of all proceeds for the day to Hokies United.

Tuesday, August 29:
==> Ribbons distributed and donations collected at tables around campus from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The banner will be available to sign at McBryde Hall.

Wednesday, August 30:
==> Ribbons distributed and donations collected at tables around campus from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The banner will be available to sign at West End Market.

Thursday, August 31:
==> Ribbons distributed, donations collected, and banner available to sign at the “Class of 2008 Kick-Off Concert and Pep Rally” to be held at 6:30 p.m. at College Ave. and Draper Rd.

Saturday, Sept. 2:
==> Students and all fans attending wear ribbons to Virginia Tech's first home football game of the season, vs. Northeastern. Ribbons will be available and donations will be collected at all entrances to the stadium.

For those not on-campus, but who may still care to contribute to this effort, donations will also be accepted in 319 Squires Student Center through Friday, Sept. 1. Checks can be made payable to Hokies United.

"It would be great to view a sea of blue ribbons at the football game on Sept. 2," said Bagai. "But it will be even more gratifying to know that the campus community recognizes the important role of law enforcement, and to see that the sacrifices made by Mr. McFarland and Corporal. Sutphin are properly honored by providing tangible assistance for those they left behind."

For more information, visit the Hokies United website.