UT Martin Chapter of Alpha Tau Omega has cranked up its Push for St. Jude’s campaign again this year. The fraternity chapter will give businesses and citizens the opportunity to donate towards the St. Jude’s charity as they push a wheelbarrow from Martin to Memphis collecting money for the hospital to use for research.
The push for St. Jude’s will begin on March 10 in Union City from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and make its way in to the city of Troy. On March 11, they will go through Trimble and Newbern in the morning and on to Dyersburg that afternoon. On March 12, the morning hours will be spent in Ripley and the afternoon hours in Covington. On March 13 the fraternity will make its way in to Memphis.
From Martin, the chapter pushes its wheelbarrow to Union City and then follows State Route 51 to Memphis. Because of traffic on State Route 51, the push will be stopped outside of Munford and will then resume on Danny Thomas Boulevard, one mile from the hospital.
Alpha Tau Omega (ATO), founded in 1964 at the UTM campus, began the planning stages of this tradition of pushing for St. Jude’s back in 1984. According to chapter advisor and alumnus, Chris Crockett, the trend was started out of a desire to have a more successful community service project.
“In 1984 several of the brothers of the ATO chapter found themselves bored over spring break while sitting around the chapter house. They decided to come up with a creative idea for a fundraiser,” Crockett said.
After thinking about the creative spin to put on the service project, the brothers came up with the philanthropy of St. Jude’s and decided to add the wheelbarrow push to give it a theme.
“The plans were made during the year of 1984, and then in 1985, the program ‘Push for St. Jude’s’ actually began,” Crocket added. The wheelbarrow being used to collect the money, as well as the event occurring over spring break, is still carried on as tradition.
While the main push doesn’t begin until March 10th, the chapter participates in several “mini-pushes” prior to the main event. Mini-pushes consist of members collecting money outside of local businesses. This Sunday the chapter will have a collection wheelbarrow set up in front of the Walmart. James Griffin, St. Judes ATO chairman, says that the mini-pushes have been a success. “We’ve had about six or seven mini-pushes so far this year and we have collected about $20,000-$22,000.”
The first year of their Push for St. Jude’s project, the ATO’s succeeded in collecting donations of over $8,000. Since 1985, the chapter has raised over $300,000 dollars towards their philanthropy.
Last year, the fraternity set a record of surpassing their goal of $40,000 by raising $45,000. The chapter has a goal of eventually raising $100,000 dollars in one year. Griffin says that for this year the chapter wants to out do their record of $45,000, which was set last year.
Crockett says he looks for the project to be a success again, but that the degree of success fluctuates. He said that a few years ago when the tornado hit Dyersburg, the fund raising drive did not go as well as it could have. “This year we’re doing our best to maintain the standards we’ve had in the past, but the economy and the threat of war may have an effect.”
After the fraternity arrives in Memphis they have the opportunity to tour the hospital and meet some of the patients and employees. “It’s a really humbling experience for anyone who has never seen the hospital,” Crockett said. “It’s an emotional time and it gives the participants a sense of pride for what they have done.”
Griffin says that the opportunity not only benefits the community but that it benefits the bonding of the fraternities’ members as well. “We have a lot of fun doing this project. We love to hang out with one another, and it is a great opportunity for us to bond,” Griffin said.
Planning for the project starts early. Crockett explained that ideas and events are developed in the fall. A committee is created for all those who are working on the project. The committee is responsible for sending out letters to corporations in the fall, and they also call major donors to remind them about the events.
The members of ATO are thankful to all the groups that contribute to the success of this project. This year the chapter is being assisted by a local sorority on campus as well. Alpha Omicron Pi has attended several of the “mini-pushes” and plans to attend the main push in March. Griffin says that the sorority has helped out a lot. “The sorority sisters are very dedicated and it allows us to reach more people,” Griffin said.
The chapter’s donation to St. Jude’s is not limited to their collection of money for the drive. They also go down to the hospital in Memphis and donate blood platelets.
“When we donate platelets to the hospital, they give us money. We then take that money and donate it back to the hospital,” says Griffin.
“I’m really proud that the chapter has continued the tradition. This is a really big deal to the ATO alumni. The chapter now has taken the project to the next level,” Griffin said.
For more information on how to donate to this cause, call the ATO house at 587-9088.