By Annabel Lau
The Sigma Pi Annual Spelling Bee may have started out as a carefree night of spelling words like “YOLO” and “bootylicious,” and hosts being dressed in nothing but their colorful shorts and blazers, but its ending was far from trivial.
The comedic affair on Wednesday, Sept. 24, took an unexpected turn when Shap Bahary, junior criminology major and president of Sigma Pi fraternity, announced where the funds raised that night would be headed.
“A member of Phi Kappa Tau was diagnosed with lymphoma recently,” Bahary said. “Chris Napoli — he couldn’t be here with us today, but all the money that we raise (usually) goes off to some research foundation somewhere and we never see the effects of it. But with our first programming event … we really wanted to change that. This time around, we wanted to go ahead and give it to someone we know, a brother in our own community.”
The spelling bee raised $1,007 to be donated to Chris Napoli and his family to help with all the expenses associated with his battle against cancer.
“When it comes to treating cancer, that doesn’t do much,” Bahary said. “But at the same time, every little dent helps.”
Napoli, a junior business major, was diagnosed with lymphoma in August of this past year, according to Steve Rosen, junior secondary education major and president of Phi Kappa Tau. Although Napoli could not attend the event, he was thrilled to hear about the donation, Rosen said.
“(Chris) was honestly just speechless,” Rosen said. “He said he would graciously accept any donation, and he could use all the help he could get. I talked to both his parents and they both said the same thing, and the family just wants everyone to know how appreciative they are, not just for the money but the support in general.”
According to Ryan Molicki, sophomore marketing major and programming chair of Sigma Pi, more than 250 people attended the event, which raised more than three times the amount of money collected in previous years.
Organizations were asked to pay $30 in order to sponsor a contestant, but few participants stuck to the minimum donation.
“So many organizations were so gracious about giving more than what they were asked to,” Molicki said.
Contestants from 12 on-campus organizations — such as Zeta Tau Alpha, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the TCNJ Ambassadors — competed for the grand prize: a $25 gift card to the Italian restaurant, Piccolo Trattoria.
Julia Malak, junior communication studies major and a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma, was the last contestant standing after successfully spelling the word “aboulia,” defined as a personality disorder where one is unable to make decisions independently. But for Malak, the highlight of her night was not the victory.
“I think it’s always nice to win, of course, but knowing that I was a part of an event that helped someone close to the TCNJ community really meant a lot,” she said.
Rosen, who accepted the donation on behalf of Napoli, was overcome with gratitude for both the act of kindness and the high number of participants.
“It’s awesome to see another group of guys step up,” Rosen said. “We’ve all been doing our own fundraising to help Chris in our own way, but to see someone else in the TCNJ community helping out the way they did — I’m at a loss for words.”