Chi Omega members shaved the heads of the fraternity brothers of Sigma Chi this past week in the Grewcock Student Union for a special cause. The activity was part of “Derby Days,” which is a week of events and competition among the sororities on campus to see who can raise the most money for cancer research.
Each year, Sigma Chi chapters host “Derby Days” across the country, which includes Hillsdale’s Alpha Kappa chapter. The majority of the proceeds go to the Huntsman Cancer Institute with 10 percent going back to the winning sorority’s philanthropic cause.
Founded by former Sigma Chi member, Jon Huntsman Sr., the Huntsman Cancer Institute is a cancer research facility and hospital located at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
The Institute has 200 clinical trials open at any given time and more than 450 cancer research projects supported by scientific funding agencies, and it hosted nearly 18,000 patient visits in 2016. The Institute is the preferred philanthropic partner for the national Sigma Chi fraternity.
According to junior Sigma Chi Vice President Clayton Vander Laan, the Institute is special because all money donated goes directly towards research.
“Every penny is donated to the Institute,” Vanderlaan said. “That’s something that is reassuring to us and people we are asking to donate money. Huntsman puts every piece of money that we give them towards the cause.”
Rather than donate to another area of cancer treatment, junior Pledge Educator Tristan Koch explained the vital element of clinical research.
“Most of the groundbreaking research has been through clinical trials that are successful,” Koch said. “We are trying to be the generation that ends cancer. We think that the best way to do that is through clinical research.”
Sophomore Philanthropy Chair Joey Sarno has been personally affected by cancer with two parents both in remission from cancer. With a mother on the board of the Boston North Cancer Association and a grandfather who was one of the first radiologists in the country, Sarno is no stranger to the different charities devoted to cancer research.
“I’ve been around that my entire life,” Sarno said. “It’s great to see where the actual money goes. It goes to these machines, it goes to the treatment, to educating doctors to learn new techniques and develop successful treatments.”
Sarno said it’s really cool to see the dedication shown by those who are committed to research. He said that same dedication to helping people is seen in his own fraternity.
“We’re a fraternity, we’re a group of guys, but we’re really dedicated to helping other people,” Sarno said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to instill. We’re not just out there for each other. We’re trying to make the world a better place.”
Vanderlaan also emphasized the ubiquitous nature of cancer, and how Sigma Chi hopes to change that.
“Cancer is something that touches just about everybody,” Vanderlaan said. “It’s such a heartbreaking thing, but that’s the reality that we face. Anything we can do now and in the future to help reduce that and end this terrible disease — that’s our biggest motivation.”
The fraternity raised $7500 over the course of the week. Chi Omega raised the most funds with $2886.
Junior and Chi Omega member Lucy Meckler is responsible for coordinating events with Sigma Chi throughout the week for her sorority. This position is coined “Derby Dollie,” and one member in each sorority holds the title.
According to Meckler, the philanthropic cause fills a gap on campus when it comes to curing cancer.
“Because it doesn’t exist on campus already, it’s a nice outlet to allow students to give back to cancer patients,” Meckler said. “It’s really humbling. We read different stories in our house about people who have been affected by cancer who have been either in Chi Omega or Sigma Chi and how our money is directly impacting their lives.”