Written by Dylan Oliver, Philanthropy Chairman (Florida Southern ’21)
February 2019. The Lakeland Flying Tigers reached out to the philanthropy chairpersons of each Greek-letter organization at Florida Southern College about a school-wide competition called “Battle of the Greeks.” Each organization would purchase tickets from the Flying Tigers ($5 a ticket) and sell them at a predetermined price ($8). The $3 profit could then be donated to that organizations respective philanthropic cause. Any tickets that were not sold could then be returned to the Flying Tigers for a full refund — there was no financial risk in participating. The tickets were to an April 4th baseball game. The organization that sold the most tickets would receive a trophy and got to throw the ceremonial first pitch.
Although we raised over $2000 for the Children’s Miracle Network earlier this year, one thing has always been missing in our chapters philanthropic pursuits: the ability to put a face to the children which we are working so hard to help. I wanted to utilize this school-wide philanthropy event to allow the chapter to think about our philanthropy outside the context of simple dollars and cents.
In the beginning, our chapter was selling tickets, which immediately proved to be very difficult. The month before the game was a struggle and ticket sales were crawling. Brothers were simply unavailable to help sell tickets with their other activities and commitments. I was feeling discouraged, and with the baseball game quickly approaching, there was little hope of SAE winning the competition. We needed to figure out another way to accomplish multiple goals and maximize the philanthropic effects.
I went to Flying Tigers and asked for the standings in the competition. With all other organizations pretty done selling tickets, it was easy to figure out how much SAE would need to sell to win. Being the last organization with tickets, we were able to sell tickets to last minute buyers up until the day of the game. About half of the tickets were sold, but we held onto the other half for a separate purposes. The tickets were given to John Hopkins Children Hospital in Lakeland, specifically to patients (who were able) and their parents to attend the game. The remaining tickets were left at the Outpatient Care Center where they were able to hand them out to families for the April 4th game.
The day before the game, I received an email from the Flying Tigers that went out to all the Greek organizations: SAE had won the Battle of the Greeks. The chapter agreed it would be special if we could gave the first pitch to a child from Children’s Miracle Network. We were connected with William, an 11-year old that was overly excited about the opportunity to throw a baseball in a real game. It is his dream to play professional baseball.
Meeting William and his family was the highlight of the night. They were so touched by the actions of the Fraternity and could not be more thankful. Walking out to the pitcher’s mound with William, accepting the trophy, and having him deliver the first pitch (which he executed far better than I would have) was a warming moment that I will certainly never forget. Watching William go to the dugout with his dad, meeting the players and getting his ball signed, it seemed as it their problems had all disappeared for a while and they were just a family spending the day at a ball game. It is this type of philanthropy that I believe has a lasting impact on the lives of children and their families. I couldn’t be more proud to provide an experience for a family that couldn’t be measured in dollars. It also showed the community that Greek-letter organizations can be a force for good in the world and the service they do cannot be replaced.
This entire experience has inspired me to pursue more of this type of philanthropy in my chapter and throughout life. Monetary donations will always be the bread and butter of our organization’s contributions, but it is the real connections, even something as little as throwing a baseball at a game, that give children a moment of joy and their families a sense of hope that they will always remember. Although my time as philanthropy chair is coming is an end, this personal form of philanthropy will not stop. This event has showed my brothers, other greek organizations, and the community what is possible when you put people first.