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ATO, Zeta Poised To Defend Fundraising Crown With New Initiatives

Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and Zeta Tau Alpha sorority are back at THON ready to defend their fundraising title from last year.

The two Greek organizations, which have teamed up to raise money for the past 28 years, secured $239,104.88 in donations last year, more than any other organization by a wide margin. The next-highest was special interest org Atlas, which collected $171,946.40 in donations.

These incredible fundraising efforts set the tone for future members to carry on the partnership’s legacy. Penn State sophomore Paige Phillips, who joined ATO and Zeta’s THON committee for this year’s dance marathon, is a perfect example of a younger student learning the ropes about her organization’s contribution to THON.

“The things we do here for our families is indescribable,” Phillips said. “I don’t think we’d have any other way to do it.”

As Phillips described, ATO and Zeta have ramped up their efforts to raise money through Donor Drives this year. The eliminations of canning and out-of-town canvassing have led to an increased emphasis on online donations, but it’s also led to more creativity when it comes to other fundraisers.

One creative idea this year was the introduction of a “beard auction” around the holiday season. ATO’s brothers participated in a fairly normal tradition by growing out beards for No-Shave November, but the partnership turned that into a big event.

Phillips explained how people came to the auction and bid on the right to shave off the brothers’ beards. They could also pay to shave off the brothers’ arm hair, for example, too, adding a fun element (because who wouldn’t want to shave off their friend’s arm hair to raise some money for charity?) to the event.

Another successful idea this year was the partnership’s THON Gala. ATO and Zeta’s five THON families were invited to the formal event, as were the families of the brothers and sisters in both Greek organizations. This particular fundraiser allowed their families to get a first-hand account of what they do to raise money for THON.

The title of highest fundraiser in a year is great, but it’s insignificant when compared to the stories of those who ATO and Zeta fight for. The partnership represents five families — the Swietzers, Haases, Zimmermans, Samborns, and Ortizes.

Because of ATO and Zeta’s deep alumni network, some of the THON children have deeper connections beyond the normal THON org-family relationship. THON child Tucker Haas is a senior at the high school Phillips graduated from and is set to attend Penn State next year. Fellow THON child Robby Swietzer is now a brother of ATO and has been in remission since 2004.

The youngest THON child associated with ATO and Zeta is Kai Samborn, a seven-year-old. Kai was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012, but he’s now living an active lifestyle attending school and playing sports after positively responding to treatment.

ATO and Zeta added the family of Joyce Ortiz, a 17-year old girl with a rare form of bone and muscle cancer, in November 2018. One of Ortiz’s legs was amputated, but she was fitted for a prosthetic and will perform during this THON weekend. All five of the families will spend some time on the floor of the BJC for THON this weekend.

“We’re so close with [the families],” Phillips said. “We take trips to their houses, and they come visit us in State College.”

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

Mikey is a junior majoring in journalism and Onward State's Sports Editor. He grew up in Bedminster, NJ and is way too obnoxious about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is hard. If you're dying to see more hockey/golf content on your timeline, you can follow Mikey on Twitter @mikey_mandarino. Send all hate mail, death threats, and your vote for the best chicken parm in State College to [email protected]

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