U of S students with the Shinerama mascot in 1978.

Remember when

Volunteering and giving back to the community in a quiet, unassuming way has always been commonplace for U of S students. Shinerama is just one of the historic traditions at the U of S that focuses on raising awareness for those in need.

For more than five decades, Shinerama has been a fixture of the University of Saskatchewan’s welcome week. The shoe-shining fundraiser took root on campus with students of the School of Physical Therapy in 1965 but started four years earlier at the Waterloo Lutheran University (now Wilfred Laurier University) as part of first-year student’s orientation activities.

In its first year, Shinerama raised about $1,000. The following year it raised money for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and it has remained associated with the charity to this day. The concept soon spread across the country to most Canadian universities and technical institutes.

Since its humble beginnings, Shinerama has grown into Canada's largest university and college student fundraiser, involving nearly 60 institutions with 25,000 students annually shining shoes, washing cars, polishing windows, co-ordinating raffles, organizing dances and hosting barbeques.

The 1974-75 student hand book and directory (yes, they listed student phone numbers with photos) described Shinerama as a grassroots fundraiser: “We hire no staff, pay for no publicity and supply only the basic shoe shine equipment so that a high percentage of the money goes directly into Cystic Fibrosis (CF) research. Shinerama is an organization of all students, not merely a privileged few. If not a great time, at least a good time is had by all who participate, including, usually, a few surprises afterwards. An office is maintained in the MUB until the end of September and after that information can be obtained from the Kiosk.”

First described in 1938, a child diagnosed with CF in the 1960s was not expected to live long enough to attend kindergarten. The median age of survival for Canadians with CF is now among the highest in the world at 53.3 years of age. Cystic Fibrosis Canada estimates that one in every 3,600 children born in Canada has CF. It is the most common fatal genetic disease affecting Canadian children and young adults. A cure is yet to be found.

The U of S has been involved in CF research for decades. For example, the Canadian Light Source has been used to image the normal lungs of pigs focusing on the liquid layer and how the liquid in the airway reacts when bacteria are introduced. Juan Lanowski, associate professor in the Department of Physiology, explained, “We discovered and showed for the first time ever that the normal airway response to inhalation of pathogens is producing liquid. This is a process that depends on CFTR (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator) expression. So, if you don’t have normal CFTR, it doesn’t work. In CF pigs, this response is absent.”

The image pictured on page two is from September 1978 and shows several students with the mascot during the kickoff to Shinerama in the bowl. The campaign was held in conjunction with the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Arts and Science students. Shoe shiners were posted throughout Saskatoon, and would shine shoes for any donation. The downtown business community was prime target having the greatest concentration of polishable shoes.

To reflect the national nature of Shinerama, the university which raised the most money per participating freshman received a Shinerama challenge trophy, a bronzed baby foot mounted on a teakwood stand, first donated in 1966.

There was no evidence the foot has ever visited the U of S campus.

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