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Pa. college students' fundraising efforts rise to crescendo during Greek Week

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Cornhole bags thudding against 10 platforms made for a drumbeat.

Nathan Freeman launched one that swished through a hole in a platform. He followed that with another shot that fell through.

Freeman, 19, of East Liberty was among 70 players and 120 people on Wednesday who attended Cornhole 4 Cancer, a fundraiser sponsored by the Robert Morris University chapter of Alpha Chi Rho fraternity for the American Cancer Society.

“My Mom had cancer,” said Freeman, 19, a freshman. “It hit close to home. We signed up for a great cause.”

This spring, students like Freeman are dancing, tossing cornhole bags and doing whatever they can to raise money for charity as part of Greek Week or any number of events on college campuses. Next week, the Greek community at Robert Morris will host Air Band, its annual lip-sync contest, to raise money in honor of Kristina Quigley, the women's lacrosse coach at Seton Hill University who died March 17 in a bus crash. At the same time, Indiana University of Pennsylvania will open Greek Week with a song-and-dance show for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

“Truly, they do it out of the goodness of their heart,” said Diane Stipcak, coordinator of student learning at IUP. She noted that many student groups do not even bother to notify her office of their fundraising activities.

Nationally, the college student volunteer rate ranged in 2011 from 18.4 percent in Hawaii to 48.6 percent in Utah, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that supports and tracks volunteering.

The rate was 27.1 percent in Pennsylvania in 2011. That places the state 29th among the 47 that responded to a survey about the numbers of college students who tutor, raise money for charity or do general labor for others. In 2008, the state placed 32nd with a rate of 26.9 percent.

Campus Compact, a national organization that encourages college volunteering, prefers to have students go beyond raising money.

“Fundraising is really important, but we see it as a means to an end, so we focus on getting students out to the community and less on the philanthropy piece,” said Char Gray, director of the Pennsylvania Campus Compact, the state affiliate in Harrisburg. “Collecting money means students are not engaged in the community.”

Scott Irlbacher, director of special programs and student community standards at Robert Morris, responded, “Some can give with their hands in service, and others are more inclined to raise money and give money. We try to do both.”

Some students raise money for charities abroad.

Burundi and Saudi students at La Roche University made an ethnic dinner in January. The event raised $647 to help women and children from Burundi after a fire destroyed the central market of Bujumbura in the African country.

The titan of college fundraisers is THON, a dance marathon at Penn State University that raised nearly $12.4 million over the past year. Since it began in 1977, it has raised more than $101 million to fight children's cancer. More than 15,000 Penn State students take part, including those at the university's branches.

“We as students have been able to see where all our efforts go — whether it's touring the hospital or interacting with families and seeing the impact that THON has on them,” said Courtney Baker, 22, a Penn State senior from Mechanicsburg who is captain of publicity for THON. “It's become such a big part of Penn State that I don't know what Penn State would be without it.”

Over the past 10 years, college students have raised about $300,000 for The Children's Institute, a nonprofit with a hospital, school and adoption services for children with special needs, said Helene Conway-Long, spokeswoman for the institute. The money comes from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne, Seton Hill, Slippery Rock, California, Carlow and Chatham universities and St. Vincent and Westminster colleges and Cambria-Rowe Business College. Carnegie Mellon alone has raised $171,000 over three years through Greek Sing, an annual fundraiser sponsored by 19 fraternities and sororities.

“That's pretty impressive,” she said. “Not only do they raise so much money, but they're volunteering here as well. They build awareness of our organization.”

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or

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