Stories produced by students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media
On May 3, 2014, the Mississippi Alpha Chapter of Phi Delta Theta will host the “ALS 5K Honoring Ralph Doxey.” Doxey is a graduate of Mississippi State and a brother of Phi Delta Theta. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) earlier this year.
ALS is a progressive motor neuron disease for which there is no known cure. Members of Phi Delta Theta are particularly aware of the disease because Baseball Hall of Famer, Lou Gehrig, was a member of the fraternity. He was diagnosed with ALS in 1939 and died two years later. ALS is sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“In someone who is living with the disease, their muscles atrophy or die and as a result they are thinking all the time what it is that they want and how that they want, but yet they are unable to produce. Some people consider it a disease in which you are trapped inside your own body because you conceptualize what it is that you want to do and how you want to do it, but your muscles won’t allow you to do it,” said Kelly Viator, executive director of the ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter.
William Kneip, a public policy leadership major and philanthropy chair of Phi Delta Theta at Ole Miss, says that, because of Gehrig, the fraternity has a unique partnership with the ALS Association. All chapters of Phi Delta Theta are encouraged to partner with local ALS chapters and put on events in order to raise both awareness and money.
Kneip says the Ole Miss Phi Delts hope to have hundreds of participants in the run both from the Oxford and Lafayette communities, including students and faculty at Ole Miss.
“Last year, we did a three-on-three basketball tournament which raised over $25,000 dollars for the local ALS association. This year we wanted to set our sights on something a little bigger that would involve more people from both the Oxford community and the student body, ” said Kneip.
Viator says they have embraced the relationship with the fraternities.
“They are the movement of our walk during walk season in terms of their voluntarism where they come out and help us to have fundraisers. We have also found that by universities conducting fundraisers that the awareness reaches far beyond the campus in which you are on. The awareness is just unmistakably something that we benefit from,” said Viator.
The money raised will stay in the region.
“All of the funds that are raised from our events and the 5k later this month will honor him and be donated in his name to The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter,” said Kneip.
Ole Miss Phi Delta Theta has already raised over $3500 in charitable contributions from attendees at one of their social functions.
Jenell Bukky Lanski is the Coordinator of Greek Affairs in the Office of Dean of Students at the university. Greek life, the school, and their corresponding philanthropies, are at the forefront of her values.
“Philanthropy and community service are founding principals of fraternities and sororities, and within the Creed of the University of Mississippi. The learning that occurs through participation in philanthropy projects and community service can be a transformative learning experience for a student. Fraternities and sororities encourage a lifelong commitment to philanthropy and community service,” said Lanski.
Currently, The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter does not receive any federal or state dollars to support its mission.
“All the services that we provide to our patients and their families are free of charge and so it is vital to our existence that these fundraisers take place,” said Viator.
The main goal for The ALS Association both on a chapter level as well as a national level is to empower people that are living with this disease, the patients and their families, by providing them with care and resources to enhance that quality of life, while at the same time searching tirelessly for a cure as well as an effective treatment.
“Ralph and his wife, Megan, are traveling with The ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter to D.C. in May to speak with our congressional members and to advocate on ALS patients across the country for ways in which we can help to find a cure for ALS,” said Viator.