Greek life offers broad range of philanthropic events

ZBT brothers sell raffle tickets to various coupons and prizes to raise money for the Boston Children's Hospital Ethan Chan / The Tufts Daily

Greek life may be most often associated with vibrant social life, but the importance of philanthropy to these organizations cannot be downplayed. This semester, fraternities and sororities have displayed an active commitment toward helping those in need through a series of social philanthropic events involving the whole Tufts community and raising significant sums of money. These events include Get on the Ball, the Zombie Run and Thetathon, among others.

In October, Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) fraternity hosted its annual Get on the Ball fundraiser, a week-long effort for the Boston Children’s Hospital. As part of this event, brothers rolled a six-foot ball around campus to raise awareness and support for the hospital.

“We collect any monetary donation and then people sign the ball, so we have a visual representation of support for the hospital and we also have a monetary component of fundraising,” ZBT President Jason Brillon said.

This year, Get on the Ball coincided with Parents’ Weekend.

“I really like the event,” Brillon, a junior, said. “I think Tufts campus does as well. It’s fun to roll around a giant ball. We can show the larger Tufts community, and parents and family of Tufts students, what we as ZBT are about.”

A few weeks ago, Theta Chi fraternity held the Zombie Run, another philanthropic event. According to senior Jake Lipson, president of Theta Chi, this year’s run was a spin-off of last year’s Prism Run, and was formed in the spirit of Halloween to get people out and running. Volunteers painted the participants’ faces like zombies before they ran.

This year, about 70 participants showed up to run, according to Lipson. Allproceeds from this event went to the Jimmy Fund of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a center for cancer research and treatment located in Boston.

“It was the perfect number to have people on a race course,” he said. “Everyone felt close together and finished roughly at the same time. We were initially worried that because it wasn’t the sheer volume of people that went to Thetathon, we were going to have less of a success. But I think we realized that a better barometer of success was the amount people who came who could have fun.”

Thetathon, the first major event for Tufts’ newest sorority  Kappa Alpha Theta, raised $10,700 to donate to Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), an organization promoting court-appointed advocates for neglected or abused children. The idea for Thetathon came from an event called THON at Penn State, a school-wide 46-hour dance marathon that raises funds for research and treatment of pediatric cancer. Building on this idea, Theta organized a much shorter event that lasted four hours.

“The event went relatively smoothly,” Theta’s Chief Marketing Officer Christie Wang, who helped plan the event with the philanthropy chair, said. “For every bump along the road a lot of the girls in the chapter knew exactly what to do. It was the best-case scenario.”

Beyond raising money for CASA, Theta also sought to bring together the campus community for a fun, successful event.

“We wanted to target people who were non-Greek life,” Wang said. “We wanted to benefit not just them, but everyone … What could we do to create something positive for this campus — not just for us, not just for Greek life, but for all of Tufts? What can we do that’s inclusive and not awkward for someone who’s not in Greek life to show up? A dance marathon seemed like a good solution – you show up, and you just dance.”

Junior Melissa Hwang, who attended Thetathon but is not affiliated with a sorority, considered the event a success.

“I liked Thetathon,” she said. “I enjoy music a lot, and having an event like that with four hours dedicated to music was very enjoyable.”

Though disappointed that the event ended early due to a fire alarm, Hwang said Thetathon was a success, and appealed to what the typical college-age student likes: food, music and good company.

Greek life organizations on campus have been willing to innovate, to expand on old ideas and bring in new ideas in order to attract more students. They tend to operate under the understanding that students need incentives to give their time and money to philanthropy events.

“I think generally, events that offer the opportunity for students to do things are the ones that are more popular,” Brillon said. “For example, getting to write on a chalk board for [ZBT’s] Tufts Gives Back, or dancing at Thetathon, or getting to run in the Tufts Zombie Run. When you have the opportunity to donate but also take part in something, then you’re also getting something out of it, so it’s not just strictly altruism. I mean, altruism is great, but it’s only going to get so many people.”

Sophomore Eliza Schreibman, who is not affiliated with Greek life but has attended several events hosted by Greek organizations,  expressed the importance of drawing students to these events.

“I don’t think people really care about the philanthropies,” she said. “I don’t think people look it up and know where the money is actually going. People just want food and ice cream.”

Hwang has found the new events hosted by sororities and fraternities to be inclusive to both Greek and non-Greek members.

“It’s time we have some new things going on,” she said. “Tufts is big on tradition, which is great. However, it was very refreshing what Theta was trying to do with this event. People are attracted to these new ideas and events.”

Lipson said there’s a real initiative from sororities and fraternities on campus to initiate new events that all students are excited to attend.

“We want to keep innovating,” he said. “I think that’s a big draw for students that participate – it’s not just about putting in money and time for a good cause, it’s also about a really exciting experience. And there are a lot of fun experiences out there. So we want to keep providing creative, fun, new experiences, rather than asking people to come back to the same thing.”