By Melissa Natividade
Armed with plenty of food — and hopefully energy drinks — the brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) held their annual 24-hour barbecue fundraiser for the Heroes to Heroes Foundation on Tuesday, Sept. 29, on the TW lawn.
Staying true to their pledge selling food for 24 hours straight, the event began at 10 a.m. and stretched through the night into the next morning. Rain poured down as thunderstorms began, but the brothers pulled through to their 10 a.m. mark without having too many soggy bun incidents.
Being stacked against one of the strongest thunderstorms since school started, the members of AEPi still went into this fundraiser with the motivation to surpass their record of $2,000 set in the spring, but knew it would be a bit of a longshot.
While they didn’t reach their goal, raising $1,050, they were still proud of the funds they raised this semester.
“Last year was definitely our biggest year so we’re really hoping to match that,” junior history major and AEPi brother Tyler Switsky said. “But I also think the most important part is that no matter how much money we raise, we still focus on the concept and the foundation. It was fantastic that we raised $2,000 (in the spring), but being back here no matter what we raise is still really important to us.”
Nationally, AEPi has 10 different philanthropies focusing on issues from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to bone marrow and blood transplants. Heroes to Heroes is the fraternity’s foundation of choice for this particular fundraiser. The foundation aims to provide all combat veterans — regardless of conflict — who suffer from moral injury and PTSD with spiritual healing, suicide prevention and peer support through a year-long healing process, beginning with a group trip to Israel.
During the trip to Israel, 10 Americans, five Israelis and two team coaches — all of whom are veterans — undergo several spiritually, socially, physically and emotionally intensive activities. They help veterans redevelop skills that can be inhibited by trauma and depression but are necessary in transitioning back into civilian life. Further information and means of donating to this cause can be found on the Heroes to Heroes website.
“A lot of us connect with this philanthropy,” junior criminology major and AEPi brother Daniel Khazen said. “Not specifically because of family ties but because mental illness is such a big issue today, especially on campuses. Not a lot of people focus on the mental illness from the stress of war and we feel it’s also important to help the people who fight for this country and their families.”
Usually taking place in the spring, the 24-hour barbecue has become a tradition according to sophomore accounting major and AEPi brother Sam Salerno, who proposed the additional fundraiser opportunity this fall and set up the Facebook page to promote their fundraiser. On Facebook alone, there were 377 people signed up to attend, a number that does not come close to the actual turnout, considering the fraternity’s foolproof location outside of the towers, one of the busiest hubs on campus.
“People just start swarming in at 2 a.m.,” Khazen said. “It’s the craziest time since everyone starts getting back from mixers and T-Dubs is closed by then. They had music at one point last year and there were 30 people just hanging out outside and getting food. That was probably the highlight of my experience.”
The members of AEPi seem to be big fans of the no-sleep fundraising method, with plans already set for Rockathon, their next philanthropy event this fall. Contrary to how it may sound, AEPi’s Rockathon is a punny take on music-oriented fundraisers, in which one brother sits in a rocking chair for 48 hours straight outside of the Brower Student Center. Money is raised solely on wristband sales and canning.
Despite the fun and entertaining nature of their fundraisers, the main point the brothers want students to take away from their events is that “it really is important to get involved and see how fraternities and sororities operate and do more than just the stereotypical things, because philanthropy is really a huge part of what we do,” Switsky said.