Sorority Raises Funds for Leukemia in Honor of Sister

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The Delta Zeta catchphrase “Once a Delta Zeta, always a Delta Zeta,” is more than just a quote to these sorority sisters. Each year, the Ali’s Way event is held to celebrate the memory of sister Ali Facella, who passed away from leukemia in 2006 while attending USF. Over 200 USF students and staff, and Delta Zeta members gathered last Tuesday to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). In its seventh year, the event featured a silent auction, and a benefit dinner and concert with music local rock bands Solwave and Hibbity Dibbity.

Delta Zeta is a nationwide sorority and was chartered at USF in April 1983. There are currently over 100 members. USF chapter director Kiara Kempski was president of Delta Zeta at the time of Facella’s passing. Kempski remembers Facella as an involved and dedicated member of the sorority. “She was always the life of a party and brought that joy and outgoing personality into Delta Zeta. Ali was never about sadness nor heartache, but always about fun and community. She was our recruiter and advocate and showed everyone in the Greek community that we were a Greek family,” said Kempski. The decision to start the Ali’s Way events came about after Facella’s memorial, which was held at Saint Ignatius Church. “The support we got from the Greek community was overwhelming so we knew we had to continue something in her name and that is when we started Ali’s Way in 2007,” she said.

Kempski noted that Facella was not the only sister that Delta Zeta has lost to cancer. Sister Ashley Spiller passed away a year before Ali, in 2005, after transferring from USF to Loyola Marymount University to be closer to her doctors. The Ali’s Way event has become a way for Delta Zeta to keep the memory of their lost sisters and loved ones alive while raising money and awareness for LLS.

“While I did not know Ali personally, she has often been described as someone who was very involved, supportive, fun-loving, and enthusiastic about life” said Jessica Small, a junior advertising major and vice president of philanthropy for Delta Zeta. Fellow sister Elizabeth Nigh, a senior politics major, shares the same feelings toward Facella. “I’ve heard she was very fun and loud,” she said. Even though the girls never got the chance to meet Facella, her outgoing energy serves as the inspiration behind the Ali’s Way events. “This semester, I thought that a benefit concert, featuring bands that USF students are involved in would represent these qualities of Ali’s personality. The themes of our events have focused on both honoring not only Ali, but also anyone affected by these diseases, as well as creating events that will bring about support and awareness of the LLS.

The money raised from the event is donated to the LLS to help patients cope financially and emotionally with cancer. For leukemia survivor Forrest Brunson, the LLS helped his family out by setting him up with a social worker for free counseling to work through his diagnosis emotionally. “Events like this make it possible for people like me to survive,” Brunson said.

Brunson overcame leukemia two years ago and spoke at last years Ali’s Way event. “I like how it’s geared toward people our age, and it’s different from other events our campus does,” said the senior communications studies student.

This year, the sorority raised over $4,150. Small and philanthropy assistant Elizabeth Anderson, a freshman marketing major, came up with the concert idea together for this year back in April. “This wasn’t something we’d done before” said Anderson. “The main thing is getting everyone motivated to donate prizes and push college students to donate time and money to the event,” she said of the challenge to raise money from college students. Performances by Solvwave and Hibbity Dibbity pumped up the crowd. Both bands include USF and non-USF students.

“Ali’s Way is not a memorial event where we mourn the loss of Ali or any persons who have left us to cancer,” said Kempski. Instead Delta Zeta has turned the pain of losing their sisters around to create a productive and inspirational event to celebrate the progress toward finding a cure. “It is a celebration for research, an event to raise awareness and to raise funds to help those battling cancer,” Kempski said. “Each year we try to do it in a fun and community involved way, because truly that would have been Ali’s way.”

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