Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

9th annual Mr. Whitman competition hits close to home with fundraising for Chris Elliott Fund

Photo Credit: Isabel Hong

The eight young men contending for the title of Mr. Whitman filed into the basement of Prentiss Hall on the night of Tuesday, Oct. 26, practicing graceful slides and almost seamless spins across the dance floor for their opening number. The ninth annual Mr. Whitman competition, to be held Friday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. in Cordiner Hall, promises to be one of the most unforgettable events on campus.

Mr. Whitman is a philanthropy event put on by Whitman’s Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, which works from summertime onward to prepare and fundraise. As is the tradition, four independent senior gentlemen and one representative chosen from each fraternity show off their bodies and talents. This year’s competition features Matt Bangcaya, Charlie Procknow, Ben Serrurier, Etienne Moshevich, Matt Oakes, Reed Ferris, Joe Wheeler and Eliot Stone, all strutting their stuff to the “get jiggy with it” theme: “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

“The reason why this event works so well . . . is because it brings together a broad range of guys from all areas of Whitman,” said junior Abby Neel, Kappa Kappa Gamma Philanthropy Chair and organizer of the event. “And the parody of having all the gentlemen involved with the pageantry creates a fun atmosphere and shows just how much we as a sorority can expand our base of involvement in philanthropy.”

Neel also wanted this year’s pageant to have a fresh twist to it.  Besides the anticipated performances from the contestants and Whitman’s dance team, additional segments of the show will feature a new dance group called Step One and Whitman’s coed a cappella group, Schwa.

But perhaps the reason why this year’s competition will be so unique is because the charity Kappa Kappa Gamma chose to sponsor has a personal significance to a Whitman student.

At the end of senior Julie Irvine’s sophomore year, right before finals week, doctors found what they thought was a low grade tumor in her mother’s brain. The growth turned out to be multiform glioblastoma, an especially deadly type of cancer, in her mother’s temporal parietal junction. After countless stays in the hospital, chemotherapy trials and vaccinations, Irvine’s mother defied the odds and is still alive 18 months after her diagnosis, despite an average survival rate of slightly over a year.

“But she is now pretty much trapped inside her body,” said Irvine. “She has lost the ability to speak and write but she can still understand and listen. Just recently we decided to discontinue her treatment so that she can enjoy her time, but in the last three to four months she has declined rapidly and is out of touch with reality.”

Last year, when the opportunity arose to nominate a charity for the Kappa’s annual Mr. Whitman event, Irvine jumped at the opportunity and searched for a regional charity with a personal focus that dealt with glioblastoma. Irvine came across the Chris Elliot Fund for Glioblastoma Brain Cancer Research, an organization founded by Dellann Elliot after her husband’s death from glioblastoma. The organization not only funds research, but also works to raise public awareness for glioblastoma and provides support for patients and their families.

According to the Chris Elliott Fund, each year 22,000 people are diagnosed with glioblastoma and 13,000 die from it. Glioblastoma accounts for nearly one in four brain tumors in the United States.

Kappa Kappa Gamma selected Irvine’s application to dedicate this year’s philanthropy work the Chris Elliot Fund, and ever since the Whitman community has rallied behind the fund to support it.

Delta Gamma, Irvine’s sorority, has provided her with personal support and decided to donate profits from their annual formal dance to the Chris Elliott Fund. And it hasn’t stopped there.

“The Betas shaved their heads, the Walla Walla Faces event downtown provided information on the Chris Elliot Fund, everyone is really going the extra mile to support this year’s philanthropy,” said junior and Kappa Kappa Gamma member Alyson Brozovich.

Neel believes that the prevalence of cancer contributed to this year’s fund-raising success.

“Cancer is one of those things that makes us feel vulnerable; most students here know someone who has been affected by cancer in one way or another,” she said. “Brain cancer is particularly devastating and there is such a need to raise awareness for it. The contestants realize this and have made unprecedented fund-raising efforts and have gotten even more creative then we could have imagined.”

Junior and Kappa Kappa Gamma member Vanessa Casey hopes this year’s cause breaks fund-raising records.

“Each year the competition just gets bigger. Last year we came close to raising $30,000; I’m sure we will be able to fundraise a significant amount this year. The boys have really stepped it up a notch with their letter writing campaigns for donations,” she said.

Irvine admitted that she had never heard of glioblastoma when her mother was diagnosed, but is glad that Mr. Whitman is raising awareness.

“You hear about brain cancer more and more,” she said. “That sort of awareness is very important to me, because it means that we are one step closer to extending the lives of people who have to suffer with glioblastoma.”

Dellann Elliott and several ambassadors from the Chris Elliott Fund will be attending Mr. Whitman, and this year’s Miss Seattle will be making an appearance as a pageant judge.

Irvine is thankful for all the support this year.

“I’d like to think that this effort will help contribute to a cure,” she said. “I would like to know that I played a small part in making life a little better for others who have to go through what my mom did.”

After the competition, Irvine will be making a trip back home to the Portland area to show a DVD of the event to her mom, who is “very honored.”

Tickets will be on sale at lunch in Reid Campus Center through Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. for five dollars. Tickets will also be available at the door for eight dollars.

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