By Marcus Lavergne
A Greek organization at the University of Nevada, Reno, wants to become one that other fraternities can emulate by proactively working to improve the community around them. Currently, the Alpha Tau Omega Delta Iota chapter has been deeply involved in a fundraising event with the Nevada Military Support Alliance.
According to ATO, they’ve raised $6,500 so far and anticipate another $1,000 by the end of the week. During the first week of the campaign, three members of the fraternity volunteered and took on the challenge of performing their daily tasks in a wheelchair to raise funds and attention for the NMSA, active military personnel and veterans.
For Dylan Tedford, a member of ATO, participating in the fundraising event means learning just how difficult life can be for veterans. He said that demonstrating the difficulties of being in a wheelchair was one of the most impactful ways to raise community awareness.
”One of the reasons we committed to wheelchairs is because we can’t really do many of the tough things that veterans struggle with,” Tedford said. “A lot of [veterans] said that the harder things they go through are those more mental issues, not the physical ones. It kind of gave these [ATO] guys the perspective that if [being in a wheelchair] is easier for them, that has to be really hard.”
Connor Matthews was one of the members who volunteered to raise awareness of the difficulties of living with an injury that can take away mobility, a day-to-day process that he believes people take for granted.
“Honestly, at first it’s a little weird,” Matthews said. “People don’t really give you that eye contact you usually get walking around campus.”
Matthews said that people did react positively once they understood what the goal of the campaign was. For him, the public was generally caring, and even helped him out when he needed it.
“Our school is really not meant for wheelchairs at all,” Matthews said. “It gets really slow, especially going up hills. Especially when it’s at the end of the week and your arms have had it, random people who you don’t know will help get you up the hill. It means a lot because it’s scary thinking you won’t get home because you can’t make it up a hill.”
Sebastian Atienza, a senator for the Associated Students of the University of Nevada and ATO brother, says that people were blown away by the awareness campaign. Atienza, who talked to ASUN Sen. Thomas Greene, a veteran, commended the group on their active involvement in the community.
“He’s part of the Alliance and he was like, ‘This is such a great thing that you’re doing,’” Atienza said. “There was just so much positivity.”
For NMSA executive director Theresa Di Loreto, working with fraternities like ATO yields more support and results in the community. Di Loreto says the more people that they can educate about what the NMSA does, the better.
“It broadens who receives our message,” Di Loreto said. “Things like what [ATO] is doing brings people to our website and they have an opportunity to see what we do, and then in turn, get involved.”
ATO is dedicated to correcting the vilified image of fraternity life on college campuses everywhere. Through philanthropy, the fraternity has begun rebuilding its own image after losing its charter at the university in the early 2000s for alleged hazing.
As with most fraternities, ATO has hosted several charity events. On Halloween, the men of the organization went trick-or-treating for canned food around neighborhoods in the area. Those collected goods were donated to the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.
Tedford’s ultimate goal is to help ATO become a fraternity that others can emulate. For him, overcoming the negative stigma surrounding Greek life involves becoming proactive members of and supporting the community. Overall, he hopes that the efforts of the organization will stand out to other Greek groups on campus and maybe around the nation.
Marcus Lavergne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @mlavergne21.