Story and Photos by Hayleigh Syens
It’s not every Friday afternoon that the brothers of the Iowa Delta chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon suit up.
But this past Friday was different: The brothers were presenting a check for $17,000 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Iowa.
The donation is the result of a wildly successful philanthropy effort by Sig Ep this year.
Queen of Hearts, Sig Ep’s annual philanthropy, has been around since 2001.
“Our chapter had just gotten back onto campus and we had a brother, Eric Grunzinger. He was diagnosed with leukemia. He unfortunately didn’t win that battle,” said Dan Pfeifle, Queen of Hearts co-chair. “The chapter decided that from then on, their philanthropy efforts would go to Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Iowa, kind of in a way to remember him.”
The specific events making up Queen of Hearts week have changed over the years, from talent shows and dunk tanks to senior skits and brothers shaving their heads.
However, the big event, a softball tournament at the end of the week, has stayed consistent.
“That was the original event for Eric: playing softball. They raised money for his family and treatments. He passed away, but since then, we’ve continued on,” Pfeifle said.
The softball tournament along with T-shirt sales used to be the main sources of funds for the philanthropy.
This year, Queen of Heats co-chair Brady Oates introduced a new fundraising effort.
“In high school, I used a website to raise money for a children’s hospital in Wisconsin for an all-star football game, so I kind of brought that idea here,” Oates said. “I talked to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and I found out what websites they had used in the past. We kind of picked the best one and went with it.”
The website made it easier for brothers to collect donations, with the total raised on the website reaching $12,400.
“Last year in order to collect money people had to mail checks which can be a hassle,” said Ben Cole, one of the highest fundraisers for Sig Ep. “With the new system I was able to tell my family and friends to go to a link I would send them and they simply had to type in their number and the amount they wanted to donate which made it much easier on both ends.”
The reach of Queen of Hearts extends beyond just memorial for Grunzinger.
Many brothers have more personal ties to the philanthrophy.
“My first year (at Drake), I was diagnosed with lymphoma, so I immediately developed a huge compassion for trying to help out Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,” said Shiv Morjaria, a senior brother. “It kind of worked out perfectly that I joined Sig Ep because they directly support that. I don’t think it can get more personal than that.”
“I do not know anyone affected by leukemia or lymphoma specifically, but last year around this time my uncle died from cancer, and when I was in high school, my grandpa died of cancer,” Cole said.
Brothers are excited that they were able to raise so much to give to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Iowa.
“It’s awesome. I’m glad we’re the largest third-party donor in the state of Iowa. That’s really cool,” Morjaria said. “I hope we can keep raising this amount every single year, because if it’s helping even one person, it’s worth it.”
“It makes me feel good to know that we are raising money for a good cause,” Cole said. “Everyone is affected by cancer in some way and this is just the first step in curing one of many cases of cancer.”
Pfeilfe and Oates, the Queen of Hearts co-chairs, will soon be replaced when Sig Ep elects new positions in the coming weeks.
The two look forward to seeing Queen of Hearts continue to grow and change.
“It’s always interesting to see what people are going to bring to it, because I’m a physics major, but the people who have held this position before have been business majors, so they’ve been focused more on the numbers part of it,” Pfeifle said. “It’s fun to see what new ideas that people bring to the table.”
“Regardless of major, just having new eyes on the situation will be interesting and exciting. I want to see our house continue to do what we did this year and raise as much money as possible,” Oates said. “At the same time, I think us raising more money has helped us to get in everyone’s eyes a little bit more and raise awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, because, in the end, that’s more important than the money.”
Morjaria agrees that while the money is a great thing, it should not be the main focus of the philanthropy.
“I want it to keep growing. I don’t want us to set a kind of upper limit on how much we can raise. But it’s not only about money; it’s about awareness, “ Morjaria said. “If we can get enough people passionate about this organization and this philanthropy, I think that’s more powerful than the dollar amount we can raise in a single year, because these people will turn into charitable donors for the rest of their lives. It’s all about benefitting people in the end.”