Mr. Whitman winner reflects

Elana Congress

Mr. Whitman winner reflects | HongThe winner of Mr. Whitman 2008 raised $4450 in less than two months, breaking the previous fundraising record by four-fold. Senior Kaston Griffin, the representative for the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, worked tirelessly to benefit the Lake Nkuruba Orphanage Project in Western Uganda. The most amazing part of Griffin’s accomplishment? The average donation size was $8.

“The key is just to mobilize as many people as possible,” Griffin said.

Griffin started his fundraising efforts by looking to corporations. He solicited donations from businesses in Vancouver, B.C., Chase, B.C., San Francisco, Seattle and Walla Walla.

The current economic recession made fundraising difficult, though. Griffin estimates that only one of every thirty businesses that he met with donated to the cause.

“The challenge became, in a time when everyone is poorer than they were before, how do you get them to give money?” he explained.

Griffin used Barack Obama’s fundraising technique of obtaining lots of small donations from a wide spread of people.

“One of the things I did is ask every one of my friends to give me $5,” said Griffin. “I used every single demographic I could think of: businesses, friends, my parents, myself, my friends’ parents, the fraternity,” he explained.

The actual male beauty pageant part of Mr. Whitman was secondary to Griffin’s fundraising efforts.

“I started fundraising the minute I found out that I was nominated,” Griffin said. On the other hand, Griffin didn’t start preparing for the actual competition until the week before. He was too busy working nine hours a day fundraising to focus on a swimwear competition.

Despite his last-minute pageant preparations, Griffin managed to pull off a great performance.

“I basically designed my talents so that each one would be unexpected, ” he explained.

For the formal wear and question and answer portion of the show, Griffin ran onstage as an “alcoholic carnival magician.” The rest of the contestants dressed formally: Griffin definitely stood out. Later in the show, for the swimwear event, Griffin revealed another side of himself. He performed a sultry strip tease, stripping off his military outfit until he was left wearing only what he described as “a far too small bikini bottom.”

Griffin’s talent section also included an onstage costume change. He started off as a hunchback, singing The Backstreet Boys’ classic “Show me the Meaning of Being Lonely.” With the help of a crew of surgeons, he was transformed into Lenny Kravitz. He proceeded to dazzle the audience with the Lenny Kravitz’s hit, “American Woman.”

Griffin admits that at first, he found the opportunity to become Mr. Whitman 2008 tantalizing.

Within days, though, the project took on a deeper purpose.

“First and foremost this was for the orphans,” he said. “Just because we’re in an economic depression and we’re not as well off as before, it doesn’t mean that the kids need our help any less,” he explained.

The Mr. Whitman competition allowed Phi Delta Theta an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to community service.

“$4450 is a huge deal. That’s half of what the orphanage needs to run for an entire year. So because of the work that Phi Delta Theta did, not just me, children don’t have to choose between medical coverage and education,” Griffin explained.

Griffin enjoyed winning the competition, but his fundraising success was the best part.

“It was fun to be crowned Mr. Whitman, but from the beginning I’ve been pretty aware that this competition isn’t about me,” said Griffin.

“After someone is named Mr. Whitman and people leave the auditorium, the haze clears and essentially it’s just a bundle of cash that we’re giving to people that are going to use it well and for really good reasons,” said Griffin. “So there’s no need to promote myself as a winner because the only real winners in this situation are the orphans.”

Although Mr. Whitman may be about fundraising, Griffin especially enjoyed one part of the evening unrelated to the orphanage: the applause that followed his victory. After he was announced winner, Griffin danced around the stage, celebrating.

“They couldn’t put the sash on me or give me the flowers. They had to wait until I finished dancing.   I just wanted to see how long people would applaud,” he admitted with a grin.