When the University of San Diego presents its third annual Changemaker Fest next week, one of the most visual examples of this mindset will occur at 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 1 in front of the Student Life Pavilion.
The Alpha Chi Omega sorority will host a philanthropic event called “Walk in Her Shoes.” What this entails is seeing a group of USD male students each wear a pair of women’s high-heeled shoes and proceed to walk from the SLP to the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice.
While the visual reaction of many people who see it as it happens will likely be quizzical, in reality, this activity is expected to raise more attention to the serious issue of domestic violence.
“There’s an old saying that you can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes,” states Alpha Chi Omega’s event publicity. “Walk in Her Shoes asks men to literally walk in women’s high heels in a march across campus. It’s not easy walking in these shoes, but it’s fun and, most importantly, it raises awareness to end domestic violence.”
Walk in Her Shoes offers something unique, but the sorority also asks the USD community to donate shoes at the event so that they can be given to Becky’s Boutique, a local thrift shop-style store where residents of San Diego YWCA’s programs — including Becky’s House, an organization helping survivors of domestic violence — can shop at no cost.
This event serves a valuable purpose and demonstrates just some of the important work done by USD’s Greek Life community. The 14 Greek organizations at USD — eight sororities, six fraternities — account for 25 to 30 percent of the university’s total undergraduate enrollment.
The many philanthropic events hosted annually by USD’s Greek community shows how they consistently make a difference, according to USD senior JuliAnn Machschefes.
“The causes we take on are really important,” said Machschefes, vice president of philanthropy and community service for the Panhellenic Council. She is a member of and an established member of USD’s chapter of Alpha Delta Pi. “People tend to forget that about (Greek organizations).”
The organizations that benefit from this support run the gamut. Many raise money for local chapters of national charities such as Ronald McDonald House (Alpha Delta Pi), Girl Scouts of America (Kappa Delta), Susan G. Komen Foundation (Kappa Kappa Gamma and Lambda Chi Alpha), American Cancer Society (Sigma Theta Psi and Sigma Phi Epsilon), and Make-A-Wish Foundation (FIJI). Oftentimes, one reason why some students seek to join a certain Greek Life chapter is because of the philanthropic cause that’s supported. Other important charities aided by USD chapters are Cardiac Care (Alpha Phi), Life Rolls On (Beta Theta Pi), Building Strong Girls (Gamma Phi Beta), Men’s Health (Phi Kappa Theta) and Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA (Delta Tau Delta and Kappa Alpha Theta).
“I’ve grown so much from my freshman year to senior year,” she said. “I strongly believe there are a lot of benefits to being in Greek Life and philanthropy is definitely something our organizations aspire to do.”
Perhaps the best example of this is the community’s support for Memphis-based St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Last spring, a letter-writing campaign during Greek Week raised nearly $60,000. The money goes to offset the hospital’s commitment to free medical coverage for children needing critical care.
While USD’s dedicated efforts have been appreciated by the hospital, Machschefes said that a new fundraising event, an online fundraiser, is in the works for this November.
Called “Up ‘Til Dawn,” she explained that Greek organization members would be awake from 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 8 to Saturday, Nov. 9 at 6 a.m. The midnight-to-6 a.m. time was chosen to simulate the reality of a typical sleepless night for the children they want to help.
“This reminds people of the need to stay up for the sake of the kids who really do have difficulty sleeping,” Machschefes said.
All Greek Life students, she said, are being asked to raise a minimum of $100 each. She said the hope is for the online campaign to expand the donor base beyond the letter-writing campaign that, despite its success, still only reached a portion of the USD community.
Between this new event and the many annual favorite Greek Life-created and participation-oriented events such as Mr. University, Susan G. Komen 3-day Walk, Shamrock and Roll, Survivor and Relay for Life, it shows that local and national organizations know they can count on USD’s Greek community to deliver results.
That’s what Changemakers do.
— Ryan T. Blystone