Holding out for a hero: Mr. Whitman pageant raises funds for Hondurans

Lea Negrin

Credit: Bullion

Credit: Bullion

The Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority has long been awaiting the draw of the red curtain in Cordiner Hall this Friday, Oct. 30, for their eighth annual Mr. Whitman pageant. A fundraiser for a chosen non-profit organization, the event brings eight male contestants to compete in formal attire, swim wear, talent and question-and-answer categories.

In past years the non-profit organization which would receive the profits of the event was chosen by the Kappas, who looked at groups with which they had some personal connection or affiliation. Last year, for the first time, they asked the Whitman College community to submit applications for organizations they believed the fundraiser should benefit. For this year’s performance, due to heightened publicity, the Kappas found themselves struggling to choose between 21 organizations.

“In the end we chose Salud Juntos. [Junior] Nathaniel Rankin, who is abroad this year, submitted the [application] for them,” said Leah Wheeler who is one of the coordinators of this year’s show.

Salud Juntos began in Seattle, Wash. as a project to better the health of citizens of Honduras by establishing clinics and working with communities to implement good medical practices.

“It’s a pretty remarkable organization that was started by a small number of smart, dedicated people and has positively impacted thousands,” Rankin said in an e-mail.

Sophomore Kappa Abigail Neel explained the organization’s mission.

After forming clinics “their mission is to empower Hondurans to work in clinics themselves,” she said.

For the pageant, Kappas select one contestant from each of the four fraternities and four independent students.

“They picked big names on campus. I just sort of know everyone,” said senior Adam Caniparoli, who was asked last May to be a part of the pageant. “[The Kappas] are using people’s popularity to make a really cool and effective fundraiser. I’m glad I can contribute what I can.”

Since Friday, Sept. 18, the contestants have been fundraising individually for Salud Juntos. Senior Matt Solomon, one of the contestants and a nationally-ranked tennis player, used his skills by inviting people to donate to the organization in exchange for playing against him. Caniparoli chose to use his connections as a member of Schwa to sell the group’s services through “lullagrams” as well as host a Coffeehouse show on Friday, Oct. 23, with the help of his friends.

While a good amount of profits are made at the pageants doors due to the reputation of the fundraiser, the contestants have each been asked to aim at raising $3,000. To encourage the gentlemen, the amount raised contributes to who is named Mr. Whitman.

“The amount they raise is a significant portion of who wins in the end,” said Wheeler.

Although the contestants come up with fundraising ideas on their own, they are supported every step of the way.

“We all have a posse of four Kappas who do publicity for us,” said Caniparoli.

After some cajoling, the Kappas enlisted Associate Dean of Students Barbara Maxwell, Professor of Sociology Michelle Janning, Professor of Mathematics Barry Balof and College President George Bridges to judge the contestants on a scale of 1 to 5 throughout the pageant.

From sorting through student-submitted non-profit applications to choreographing the opening dance to serving as MCs for the show, the Kappa sorority has involved many of its members in the Mr. Whitman pageant.

“We really care about the charity this year so  we’ve  put our hearts into it,” Wheeler said.

For the past week tickets have been on sale in Reid for $5 but will increase to $8 at the door.

“Despite the recession we’re setting our goals high,” said Wheeler, who has much to live up to in light of last year’s success of raising $21,000 to go to an orphanage in Uganda for children of  AIDS  victims.

Rankin is grateful for whatever funds the pageant raises for Salud Juntos.

“Many thanks to them for this: it’s an incredible event that they put on,” Rankin said.