By Daniel Perez
UTEP News Service
As a child, Omar Khalik heard about cancer from friends diagnosed with the disease. As a young adult, he witnessed his parents dealing with different types of the illness.
In an effort to show solidarity with his family, friends and young children battling cancer, the junior computer science major at The University of Texas at El Paso participated in a campus fundraiser to help children stricken with serious diseases and their families.
He was among the Phi Delta Theta fraternity leaders who organized garage sales, T-shirt sales, a bake sale and requested online donations from alumni. As a result, the group raised almost $1,600 – the most among UTEP’s participating Greek organizations. In total, the students donated more than $6,000.
The fundraising efforts were among the philanthropic, academic and athletic competitions conducted during UTEP’s Greek Week March 24-30. The teams battled for points and the overall winners were Phi Delta Theta fraternity and the Alpha Xi Delta sorority.
Khalik was among the eight men and three women who volunteered to have their hair cut short if their organizations met their fundraising goal. His head became a cue ball with a cause.
“Showing support for the kids was great, but this was personal for me,” said Khalik, whose mother was scheduled to start her chemotherapy treatment next week. “I wanted my parents to know that I’m here for them, especially my mom. For guys it’s easy (to get a buzz cut), but there aren’t a lot of girls who want to be bald.”
The Greek Week activities included an overnight lock-in March 28-29 in Memorial Gym to symbolize how cancer or other debilitating diseases could keep youth homebound. Before participating in basketball, dodge ball and tug of war challenges, the students listened to a presentation by a representative from Miners for St. Jude, who thanked the students for their sacrifice and explained how their donations would help pay the medical costs of sick children.
Jenny Moya, junior biology major and president of the Miners for St. Jude, said she was happy to receive a high-five after her presentation. Other Greek organizations in attendance were Alpha Kappa Lambda, Alpha Sigma Alpha, Delta Lambda Phi, Omega Delta Phi and Zeta Tau Alpha.
“The Greeks always have been good at helping us,” said Moya, who has been interested in helping less fortunate children since reading a book about a girl with leukemia in elementary school. “They’ve raised a lot of money for us.”
The Greek Week activities, especially the lock-in, promoted unity among the student organizations, said Kristy Pacheco, coordinator of student activities and fraternity and sorority life. She said she was excited and proud of the Greek collaboration.
“It is wonderful to see that our community is living up to the fraternal values of philanthropy, leadership and brotherhood,” said Pacheco, who sacrificed 12 inches of her long, dark hair for the cause. “In doing so they are also strengthening relationships internally and with the community.”
Kristy Bolivar, a senior forensic chemistry major, was among the 30 Zetas who participated in the lock-in. She said the activities and the purpose made it a fun and rewarding experience. Like Pacheco, she volunteered to have her hair cut and donated to Locks of Love, a Florida-based nonprofit that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children.
Bolivar said she grew her hair for five years and donated her 14-inch-long ponytail in honor of three family members who overcame cancer.
“It was a little scary and somewhat bittersweet (to cut my hair), but it was rewarding because it will make someone happy,” Bolivar said.