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Derby Days raises more than $16,000 for cancer research


Clarkston freshman Alec Jones dances in the cage during the Derby Days Auction on Nov. 10 at Wayside Central.

The Zeta Rho Chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity raised $16,300 for cancer research last week through fundraising events during Derby Days.

The chapter at Central Michigan University promoted, organized and held five events from Nov. 6 to Nov. 11 to raise money for research at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“So many (people) are affected by cancer. (These events are) a fun way to get everyone involved and come together as a community and beat cancer,” said Jonathan Kelly, the event’s philanthropic chair for Sigma Chi.

Derby Days is Zeta Rho’s piece in the national puzzle of the annual Derby Challenge, a “friendly competition” founded by cancer survivor and Sigma Chi member Jon Huntsman. The charity was founded in 1995, and in 2012, Sigma Chi designated the institute as its preferred philanthropic partner, according to Sigma Chi’s website.

This year’s goal was to reach $1.5 million for the institute. The national fundraising officially started Aug. 1 and ends July 31, 2017. So far, the national fraternity of more than 200 chapters has raised $235,078, according to the fraternity’s website.

The fraternity donated $1,000 they raised during Derby Days events to CMU’s Zeta Rho’s sorority chapter — the sorority that earned the most points during the week’s worth of events. Points were tallied at the five events and translated to participation, amount of money given and attendance by members of the sororities.

On Sunday, Nov. 12, the fraternity announced that Delta Zeta won the $1000 prize.

In total, 11 sororities participated and attended the 2016 Derby Days. Although the general public was invited and allowed to attend the five events, most of the participation was specifically geared toward sorority members.

One of the most popular events of the week was the Derby Pageant, a beauty pageant competition among 11 women representing their sorority, at the Broadway Theatre in downtown Mount Pleasant. Contestants were judged by their answers to questions, their talent, and formal wear. The competition cost $5 to attend.

The roughly 450-seat theatre was at capacity, said Mark Guidobono, a Northville senior who was last year’s philanthropy chairman.

Guidobono said he believed this year’s Derby Days had the highest overall attendance and participation he had been involved in.

Tom Orlich, a Sigma Chi member in his fourth year with the fraternity, said the amount of money raised through Derby Days has almost doubled since his freshman year, from $10,000 to over $16,300.

However, this year’s total is less than the over $17,000 in charitable earnings from last year’s Derby Days, according to its 2016 Derby Days press release.

On Thursday evening, the fraternity raised roughly $7,200 through the date auction event held at the Wayside Central nightclub. To the sound of loud dance music, Sigma Chi fraternity pledges, members and chairs were auctioned off on Wayside’s dance floor to members of the 11 participating sororities, some in the hundred-dollar range.

Kelly, the philanthropy chair, was auctioned off for $600.

Once auctioned off, sorority sisters could spend the rest of the evening with their dates they “won” at auction. According to Gretchen Wiegerink, a Sigma Kappa alumnae, most girls just take their “dates” back to a house to party.

As entertaining and fun as the night was, CMU junior Kirstie Waller of Alpha Chi Omega said she was at the event to help raise money.

“Obviously, (cancer research) is the most important thing (about the event),” she said. “We wouldn’t be here otherwise.”