On World Autism Awareness Day, April 2, 2009, Alpha Xi Delta proudly announced its new philanthropy partnership with Autism Speaks. With 112 college chapters, 130 alumnae associations and nearly 135,000 members from coast to coast, Alpha Xi Delta was looking to support a cause that would have a personal connection to its members; support the sorority's mission and vision; and have support in place to assist its members across the United States. It found such a cause in Autism Speaks.
Alpha Xi Delta harnessed its collective womanpower and as of December 2009, less than a year into its partnership with Autism Speaks, the sorority has raised more than $120,000 nationally for autism research. In addition to the funds raised, Alpha Xi Delta Sisters have volunteered countless hours in support of Autism Speaks.
"The women of Alpha Xi Delta understand the importance of raising funds to support research so that we can better understand, diagnose and treat autism," said Rebecca Fehlig, executive director of Autism Speaks' St. Louis chapter. "But, they also express a true desire and amazing initiative to learn how they can each make an impact in their community by raising awareness, educating others and ultimately generating greater compassion among their fellow students."
The Sisters of Alpha Xi Delta have raised funds and awareness in communities across the country, giving so much of their time and talent in 2009 to support of families impacted by autism.
In 2009, Alpha Xi Delta collegiate and alumnae members:
- staffed kiosks at the Autism Speaks Dover 400 NASCAR event, collecting $6,000 (one dollar at a time), distributing information, and tattooing countless children with blue puzzle piece temporary tattoos.
- held dozens of on-campus Alpha Xi Delta AmaXIng Challenge fundraisers across the country, from “Puzzlepalooza” at Georgia Tech to “Step It Up” at Southeast Missouri State, and other fundraisers such as “Rock for a Cure” at George Mason University featuring a local 11-year old guitarist with mild autism;
- reached out to their local communities to raise awareness of autism;
- served as summer interns in a number of Autism Speaks national offices;
- created and staffed games and arts and crafts booths at numerous Walk Now for Autism Speaks events;
- interviewed families and staff for a stream of research papers, speeches, and presentations;
- in at least one case, made autism research her career choice and accepted a position through introductions made by the Los Angeles office of Autism Speaks.
The top national Alpha Xi Delta fundraiser is Marianne Russo. Marianne pledged in 1981 at Cal State Northridge and has been involved with Alpha Xi Delta ever since. Her “little Sister” is Deanna Detchemendy, Alpha Xi Delta's National President. Marianne is
a trustee for the Alpha Xi Delta Foundation and a strong supporter of the sorority's California State University Stanislaus chapter since its founding 11 years ago. To raise funds for the 2009 Central Valley Walk Now for Autism Speaks, Marianne not only wrote letters but also auctioned off a flag from the PGA President's Cup golf tournament where she courageously obtained the signatures of 13 PGA players including Ernie Els, Ryo Ishikawa, and Phil Mickelson. Marianne and her husband Bruce Russo, own Construction Management Corp. in Modesto, Calif., which underwrote and transported equipment for the Central Valley Walk.
“It was apparent from the start that Autism Speaks would be a dynamic philanthropic partner for Alpha Xi Delta. Autism Speaks staff members understand what Alpha Xi Delta is about and appreciate what our members contribute,” said Deanna Detchemendy. “In addition, Autism Speaks' cause is deeply meaningful for our Sisters, with many impacted across the country. Alpha Xi Delta is proud of having raised over $100,000 so far, but we consider it just the beginning.”
To learn more about Autism Speaks and Alpha Xi Delta listening together, click here.