We Care & Can: A non-profit started by OSU student

Morgan Grindy

Corrections: 

Arisa Larmay is double-majoring in microbiology and nutrition and minoring in chemistry.

Larmay’s grandfather passed away due to congestive heart failure. 

Jorge Luis Dominguez Baza is majoring in mechanical engineering. 

Beaver’s Digest regrets these errors. 

 

“Together we can do so much, so why not!” Oregon State University senior, Arisa Larmay, is bringing together her community through small steps towards a bigger change. Larmay is double-majoring in microbiology and nutrition and minoring in chemistry with plans to become a doctor after finishing school. She’s almost done with her undergraduate degree at OSU but wants to involve the campus community in one of her dreams for the future.

Larmay has always wanted to do something that could help others and give back. A year ago she came up with the idea of starting a non-profit organization that would raise money for people who struggle with paying medical bills or are lacking healthcare. A few months later that idea blossomed into the non-profit that now exists, called We Care & Can.

We Care & Can is currently and OSU-based organization that Larmay runs along with three other team members. Their name is a bit of a play on words because their biggest form of fundraising is by collecting empty cans and bottles. Cans and bottles are sourced from friends, family and several locations where the organization has placed white bins labeled with their logo.

The Instagram page for We Care & Can states that they aim to cover health care costs related to “medical, dental, pharmaceutical, nutrition” and other various costs. Their resource is available for those who “don’t have health insurance, their health insurance does not cover certain medical treatments or the large copays and high deductibles have left them with big healthcare bills.”

On OSU’s campus, there are bins for We Care & Can in Waldo Hall, the Ettihad Cultural Center in the Student Experience Center and the Science Success Center in Kidder Hall. Eventually, Larmay would like to expand their fundraising abilities through selling We Care & Can apparel and stickers and put all of the profits towards the fund they’ve created and to obtain more collection bins.

Larmay says she noticed that there was a large number of people in her community, including college students, that had difficulties paying for different kinds of medical bills. One specific instance that caught her attention was that Oregon Health Plan, a health care service available to Oregon residents, does not offer coverage of certain things such as dental services. She also noticed that it is often very difficult for students at OSU from outside of the United States to get proper health care coverage, which sometimes doesn’t allow those students to get the medical assistance they may need because of high expenses.

Another large factor that went into the creation of We Care & Can was Larmay’s personal experience with medical costs. Two years ago playing intramural soccer at OSU, Larmay suffered from a severe concussion that required her to get a computed tomography scan or CT scan. She says that at the time she had health insurance, but because of not meeting the deductible for that coverage she had to pay for her medical bills on her own.

“I didn’t have that money at the time and I had to pay completely out of pocket,” Larmay said. “I ended up having to apply for financial assistance, which I got, but if I hadn’t I may have had to take the term off for school and work in order to pay those bills.”

Another personal experience that impacted her idea for We Care & Can was the death of her grandfather, who passed away from congestive heart failure. Larmay believes that if he had been able to get further medical assistance, such as consulting with a nutritionist to make dietary changes, that would have impacted his health in a positive way.

“I think it takes more than just getting a doctor’s diagnosis and then walking out of the doctor’s office confused,” Larmay said. She wants to make sure that people can not only be able to pay for the basic medical needs they have but also have the opportunity to take advantage of the non-emergency medical services there are such as seeing a nutritionist or getting different types of dental work done.

About a year ago, Larmay started collecting cans and bottles on her own. “Anytime I got a water bottle or a can I would save the can and just put it in a bin. Then I’d deposit it and put the money aside for this.” She eventually shared what she was doing with her family and friends and they were able to help contribute cans and bottles as well.

We Care & Can has now grown through the OSU community. One of the people that Larmay had reached out to was We Care & Can Outreach Director Jorge Luis Dominguez Baza, a junior at OSU majoring in mechanical engineering. Baza helps build relationships with community members who are willing to be involved with We Care & Can, along with developing ideas for community involvement and marketing.

“Arisa and I come from similar backgrounds,” Baza said. “We have been really great friends for a few years and when she presented the idea of We Care & Can I was very wowed by it because it is something that is unique and achievable. I have experienced first hand the financial struggles of not being able to cover my own healthcare expenses or have opted out of treatment because it was a financial burden.”  

For this year, Larmay set a goal to raise $1000 through can and bottle collection. In the month of February, when they began collecting and depositing cans and bottles they made $70 and in the following month made $90. She says they are expecting to be able to reach an even higher number for the month of April.

Jessica Lopez, a sophomore at OSU majoring in bio-health sciences and Spanish, was one of the people who has donated cans so far. Lopez is close friends with Larmay. “I wanted to help her out as much as I can. I think this is an amazing project and it has great intentions.”

Looking towards the future, Larmay would like to set aside money to create a scholarship program for students using the money she will have collected by then. She hopes that this will be attainable by the time she has finished school and become a doctor. In the next five years, Baza and Larmay both hope that the organization will be able to have helped at least one person with their medical costs.

Aside from her goals for the organization, it is important to Larmay that participating in We Care & Can is as user-friendly as possible. She said that volunteering time, knowledge or resources along with cans and bottles is just as valuable. But simply putting an empty can in a different bin other than trash or recycling can make a big difference.

“I’m a big advocate for small steps leading to big changes,” Larmay said.

We Care & Can is in the process of becoming registered as 501(c)(3). If an organization is interested in having a bin to collect cans and support the non-profit, they can contact Arisa Larmay at [email protected]

 

Corrections made 5/1/2019