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TKE perseveres through pandemic, raises funds for St. Jude

Lyon College’s Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) chapter raised $900 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital despite the COVID-19 pandemic interrupting the fraternity’s annual philanthropy week.

TKE is a national fraternity that has been donating to St. Jude since 1978.

“When I toured the St. Jude Research Hospital this past February, our guide mentioned that it takes nearly one million dollars per day to cover all the expenses the hospital faces,” said junior Benji Norton. 

“Our current national commitment with TKE is to raise ten million in ten years.” 

To help reach this goal, Lyon’s TKE chapter held its annual fundraiser, TKE Week, beginning on March 9.

Junior John Pruden, the philanthropy chair of TKE, said TKE Week is “a week of daily, campus-wide philanthropy events.” These events range from a musical chairs competition to a cornhole tournament, and participating students have the chance to win glory, keepsakes and cash prizes.

“The turnout was really great among the teams!” Pruden said. 

While usually a week of competitive fun, TKE Week came with many struggles this year.

TKE first had to cancel their water balloon event because of bad weather, opting for an indoor event instead. Together, TKE brothers and participating Lyon students created a communal art piece. This artwork was supposed to be given away at TKE’s No More Cancer Rally, but by then, the looming COVID-19 threats had been declared a pandemic.

Before the week could finish out, TKE had to cancel their No More Cancer Rally as well as their awards banquet. While upset about losing their big-ticket functions, TKE decided against hosting any community events in the name of campus safety.

 “The bright side of this was that we were able to save the money that those events would have cost and donated the funds directly to St. Jude,” Pruden said.

TKE contacted the businesses that had paid for a sponsorship, giving them the option to sponsor next year’s TKE Week or another future philanthropy event. Phi Mu, who were on track to be the winners of TKE Week 2020, will also still be given their plaque and their grand prize of “free labor from TKE” when students return to campus.

Fortunately, Pruden said, TKE had already held most of its major philanthropy events so the COVID-19 crisis did not seriously impact how much they were able to support St. Jude.

“We will be able to give them a large donation at a time when support for these immunosuppressed children is critical.”

TKE was not able to raise as much as they hoped to during TKE Week since most student participants were waiting until the No More Cancer Rally to donate themselves. They were still able to raise $900 from local business sponsors such as Nova Joe's, FutureFuel, and First Community Bank. Campus sponsors, such as the Salty Dog, Student Life and the Scot Shop, helped provide materials for events and benefits for TKE Week participants.

Because St. Jude treats childhood cancers and pediatrics diseases, TKE has also launched an emergency outreach fund since COVID-19 is especially dangerous for those who are immunosuppressed. By going to this link, anyone can click “donate now” to donate directly to the relief fund, or even create an account and help TKE raise money virtually by teaming up with friends. 

“We’re just hoping that people help each other and look out for the most vulnerable among us,” Pruden said.

“Anything that goes towards that goal will help hundreds, if not thousands, of children,” Norton added.

While the pandemic has scattered many TKE brothers, they are still keeping in touch through social media in hopes of preserving their fraternity’s brotherhood and philanthropic pursuits.

“All of us are so deeply inspired by St. Jude's mission,” Pruden said, “as well as by our own fraternity's ideals of ‘Love, Charity, and Esteem.’ This philanthropy brings us together under a common goal.”

One of the biggest lessons he has learned through his role as philanthropy chair for TKE is that “volunteering for a cause you believe in is genuinely good for the soul.” 

Pruden concluded, “My brothers and I feel a much closer bond when we are working hard at work worth doing.”