This guest post is written by Omar Kasim, the Vice President of Philanthropy for Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp) at the University of Arkansas. The fraternity is involved with Autism Speaks U, an initiative of Autism Speaks that is designed to support college students, faculty and staff in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts.
A year ago Jack Otten, an alumnus of the Sigma Phi Epsilon(SigEp)chapter at the University of Arkansas and father of an autistic child, approached his old chapter requesting its support for Autism Speaks. Since then, we have devoted our philanthropic efforts to raising money and awareness for the organization. Every year we host an annual kickball tournament for the sororities at the University of Arkansas. The tournament gives sororities an opportunity to compete against each other while at the same time working towards a common goal of raising money for the cause. Last year was the first we supported Autism Speaks and were able to raise over $6,000. This year we have set a goal of $10,000, a number we believe is more than feasible.
This year our chapter’s philanthropy team decided to try something new in an attempt to generate more revenue: selling custom non-slip headbands to the sororities that participate in the kickball tournament every year. Originally, the headbands were focused toward the sorority chapters at the University of Arkansas. But as we promoted the products on social media, we started receiving interest from chapters at other schools and universities. It was then that we realized the market for our headbands extended beyond the University of Arkansas. To manage transactions better we decided to create a website. What started out as a local fundraiser has turned into nation-wide phenomenon, yielding sales from Maryland to California. In just four days of opening the website SigEp Bands has raised close to $1,000. Ironically, a majority of our income has come from beyond state lines.
Every day event participants and volunteers walk to the sorority houses and hand-deliver headbands purchased through the website. By purchasing a headband, a sorority member is contributing to Autism Speaks’ cause while receiving a great product in return. For sales outside of the University of Arkansas, we ship out packages in between classes at the post office located in the student union. The impact we are making extends beyond Jack Otten and his family. Coincidentally, the post office clerk that we visit every day has a son who is autistic as well, and is grateful that our efforts are for Autism Speaks.
We are very thankful for everyone’s help and the support across the nation. Whether it was from social media or a text from a friend from back home, supporters probably heard about us through word of mouth. We ask that everyone continue this chain and spread the word of our product and our efforts so that we can continue to succeed in our philanthropic endeavors. Supporters can click here to purchase their own headbands and help support Autism Speaks.
Connect with Autism Speaks U via its website, Facebook and/or Twitter.