Autumn Angel combines pageantry with philanthropy

Last Wednesday night, women representing a number of the College’s clubs and organizations participated in a pageant based not on swimsuits, formal wear and appearance, but on strength, intelligence and character.

This year’s Autumn Angel, the fifth annual pageant sponsored by Theta Phi Alpha, pitted 14 women against each other in a number of events. The contestants competed in an angel costume contest, angel trivia, arm wrestling, an ice cream eating contest, hula-hooping and a final question and answer round.

The pageant, according to the application form written by the sisters of Theta Phi Alpha is “designed to highlight various philanthropies while dispelling gender stereotypes.”

Theta Phi Alpha sought to de-emphasize the attention placed on looks and beauty in today’s society and created Autumn Angel for a charitable cause. Before the pageant began, each candidate, in conjunction with the club or organization that sponsored her, was required to choose a philanthropy she wished to represent. The first, second and third place winners received a portion of the night’s profits to donate to these charities or groups, with the remaining profit going to the philanthropy of Theta Phi Alpha’s choosing.

“Autumn Angel is not your typical pageant. It really shows the strengths of the College’s women, and proves that we can do anything. At the same time, the sisters of Theta Phi really like the fact that we are helping to better the community,” Lauren Svec, vice president of Theta Phi Alpha, said.

In order to make a significant amount of money that could be divided among Autumn Angel’s winners, fund-raising for the event was held the first week of November. During this time, jars were set up for each candidate in a contest known as “Money Wars.”

At the end of those four days, the money in each jar was totaled. Alison Lorenzo, junior psychology major and a sister of Theta Phi Alpha, who was sponsored by the brothers of Alpha Chi Rho (AXP), won the contest. Her chosen philanthropy was The Sunshine Foundation, Inc., an organization that works to improve the lives of people with various developmental disabilities by providing a number of valuable life services. The Sunshine Foundation, Inc. will receive over $900 which was raised during “Money Wars.”

Coincidentally, Lorenzo was also selected as the pageant’s first-place winner, which means that another $300 will be contributed to The Sunshine Foundation, Inc.

The margin between the first and third place winners was only one-and-a-half points, making this the closest Autumn Angel pageant to date.

“This was an awesome opportunity to represent my organization, as well as the brothers of AXP,” she said.

Various members of the campus community judged the pageant, including Howard Robboy, Theta Phi’s faculty advisor, Diane Bates, professor of sociology, Tim Wilkinson, fraternity and sorority programs director and Sofia Ojeda, last year’s winner.

Maggie Thornton, sponsored by Sophomore Year Government, took second place. She received $200 to donate to Best Buddies International, a group that works with people who have intellectual disabilities.

Gabriella Fiore, sponsored by Sigma Pi, took third place. She was allotted $100 to donate to the American Red Cross, which is the nation’s top supplier of blood, plasma, tissue and other medical necessities.

The money that was not allotted to the first, second and third place winners of the pageant will be donated to Theta Phi Alpha’s philanthropy of choice, The House That Theta Phi Alpha Built.

The organization was established in 1993 and allows Theta Phi Alpha chapters across the nation to unite in a common goal of aiding the homeless, whether it be working in a local shelter or aiding in the construction of new homes.

“Even though the pageant is always fun and enjoyable for everyone who comes out, our real focus is on educating people about community service,” Svec said. “If we can accomplish that, then we have been successful.”

The success of Autumn Angel 2004 was evident through the $1,345 that was raised through the $5 admission fee and $1 raffle tickets. With the support of a number of local businesses and restaurants, Theta Phi Alpha auctioned off eight prizes throughout the course of the evening.

Winners of this year’s pageant received gift certificates to Olive Garden, Applebee’s, Slocum’s, the Gap and F.Y.E. The night’s larger prizes included 10 tickets to the Stress Factory, a comedy club in New Brunswick, an autographed Philadelphia Flyers hockey puck and four tickets to a taping of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” in March.