I’ve never liked walking around outside in the cold, even if I did grow up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I therefore never quite understood why my parents would bundle my twin brother and me up to walk around downtown Ann Arbor late at night the first weekend of December every year as a kid. Even though I had to succumb to the frigid temperatures and be dragged in and out of stores participating in the annual Midnight Madness sales, there was one thing I remember loving about that tradition: collecting all of the colored tags from the University of Michigan Medical School students around town. I didn’t really get why there were “grown ups” dressed up in funny costumes and red capes around town exchanging dollars for colorful tags, but I never really questioned it.
Tag Days has always been important to my family (see picture of my old dog, Hunter, with tags on his collar in 1998). My mom was a Galens member when she was in medical school at U of M. Since becoming a faculty member, she has been a Happy Van driver countless times, distributing hot chocolate and snacks to cold, hungry taggers around town. My dad recalls that one of his favorite Tag Days memories was when he would walk my brother and I around from corner to corner trying to find my mom’s van so we could see her and say hi. Growing up, Tag Days brought my family and the local community together as we’d celebrate in downtown Ann Arbor each year. And so, my love and appreciation for Tag Days started to bud far before I understood the full extent of what Tag Days means.
Fast forward to December 2, 2017. I woke up on what seemed to be the most important day of my life—the day I interviewed at the University of Michigan Medical School. Before I walked out of the door in the morning, my mom flagged me down and reminded me to grab a couple of bucks so that I could donate to the students spread throughout the hospital and receive a tag, which I proudly wore on my coat for the rest of winter. Less than a year later, I am now a student at UMMS with the first weekend of December fast approaching. Over this year, I have learned that the funds raised through Tag Days go to local organizations in Washtenaw County that work with underserved kids. I’ve also learned about all about the logistics of planning such a large event, and have eagerly helped fold tags in the student lounge as a late-night study break. Now that I’m finally starting to understand what Tag Days is about, I can’t help but feel honored to be a part of a tradition that I grew up with, and which means so much more to me now. For me, Tag Days is about bringing together and supporting community, as it brings Washtenaw County and Michigan Medicine together in the most beautiful way. I am so excited for my “first” Tag Days as an M1 and to be able to bring together and give back to the community that I grew up in.