Kappa Alpha Psi's Sunday of Hope


Sunday of Hope

Marlo Thomas accepts Kappa Alpha Psi's Humanitarian Award on
behalf of her father, Danny Thomas. Presenting the award are
fraternity member Willie Brooks (left) and former Grand Polemarch
Samuel Hamilton.

 

Hope brought Willie Brooks to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; hope that by serving on one of the hospital’s advisory boards, he could help children like his niece who are stricken with cancer. And hope prompted him to introduce the hospital to officials of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.: hope that his fraternity would become involved in helping in the fight against cancer.

Now, thanks to Brooks’ efforts, Kappa Alpha Psi, one of the nation’s largest African-American fraternities, has done just that. On January 6, Kappa Alpha Psi members will stand before church congregations around the country and ask for a special offering to benefit St. Jude.

The event, dubbed the Sunday of Hope, is another milestone in the commitment Kappa Alpha Psi has made to help St. Jude. Over the next five years, Kappa Alpha Psi seeks to raise $500,000 to name the lobby of the St. Jude Translational Trials Unit and help further the research the hospital is conducting.

And much like St. Jude itself, this tremendous partnership began with the hope of one man.

Small Steps
In 2003, Brooks, a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi South Central Province (region), was asked to become a part of an advisory committee at St. Jude. During his tenure, he learned more about St. Jude than he had previously known.

“I am a native of Memphis, so I knew of St. Jude,” Brooks says, whose niece had been a patient at St. Jude in 1986 and is now cancer free. “But still I didn’t know the inner working of St. Jude. A lot of times living in a city you tend to overlook those things that are right within your touch.”

Brooks thought St. Jude was just another children’s hospital. But he soon learned how the research conducted on campus can be quickly translated into treatments for patients in  – what St. Jude calls “Bench to Bedside.”

“That resonated with me,” Brooks says. “I knew I wanted to be a part of helping St. Jude and get my fraternity involved in helping.”

For that, Brooks began taking small steps. He set up a tour for his province’s polemarch (director), Prentice J. “Jerry” Siegel, who was coming to Memphis to oversee his first regional meeting in 2003.

Like Brooks, Siegel had also been loosely familiar with the hospital. “I had heard of St. Jude for most of my life, but I thought it was a general purpose hospital,” Siegel says.

The tour opened Siegel’s eyes. “In all honesty, the tour changed my life and how I look at children’s care,” Siegel says.

Afterward, Siegel added his voice to Brooks’. Each felt compelled to bring Kappa Alpha Psi and St. Jude together. Through their efforts, a $2,000 gift from the South Central Province was made to the hospital in 2004.

But for Brooks and Siegel, support from the province was just the first step. Both had high hopes to garner support for St. Jude from the fraternity’s national office. And that, in turn, could encourage the African-American community to support the hospital.

“There really is no large scale support effort from the African-American community in regards to assisting St. Jude in their efforts,” Siegel says. “I want our fraternity to take the lead.”

Setting a Record
In 2005, those hopes came to fruition as Kappa Alpha Psi named St. Jude as its national philanthropic partner. Brooks was named the National Chairperson for the St. Jude Partnership, serving as the liaison between St. Jude and Kappa Alpha Psi.

Brooks began working on a national project to get all of Kappa Alpha Psi involved in supporting the hospital. Working with ALSAC, the fundraising organization for St. Jude, Brooks set up a St. Jude Committee consisting of one fraternity member from each province. The committee was charged with coordinating golf tournaments in each of the provinces around the country.

The tournaments proved to be successful, combining to raise more than $100,000 for St. Jude, a record donation for Kappa Alpha Psi. “That was a landmark for us in terms of fundraising,” Brooks says proudly.

 In celebration of the fraternity’s accomplishment, Marlo Thomas, national outreach director for St. Jude and daughter of hospital founder Danny Thomas, attended Kappa Alpha Psi’s 78th Grand Chapter meeting in July 2007, where she accepted the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Humanitarian Award on behalf of her father.

“Your founder and my father had a lot in common, including their vision and big dreams for serving humanity,” Thomas told the crowd. “My father used to say there are two types of people in the world – those who stop at a traffic accident to see if they can help and those who just drive by. Thank you for remembering that he was one of those who stopped and helped.”

During the Grand Chapter meeting, Kappa Alpha Psi also announced its commitment to raise $500,000 to name the lobby of the Translational Trials Unit, where advances are being made in treatment of sickle cell disease and pediatric HIV/AIDS.

A key component of that commitment is the Sunday of Hope.

Sunday of Hope
What began as a dream for Brooks will become a desire for Kappa Alpha Psi members across the country in January 2008. For the Sunday of Hope campaign, the fraternity’s alumni and undergraduate chapters have been securing churches in communities across the country to collect donations for St. Jude during the first month of the year. Their goal is to recruit 292 churches (one for each fraternity chapter) to participate.

Then, on the designated Sunday, Kappa members will share the story of St. Jude with their congregation and ask for a special offering for St. Jude. A bulk of the events will take place on January 6, in honor of the fraternity’s founders who created the organization on January 5, 1911.

“With January being our Founders’ Month, having the Sunday of Hope at this time will give us an opportunity to work hand-in-hand to accomplish this project,” says Brooks, who recently stepped down as the St. Jude Partnership chair to become the Polemarch for the South Central Province.

Each of the 292 churches is expected to contribute $1,000, which would easily break the fraternity’s record donation. And it’s a goal that Siegel, who recently succeeded Brooks as the National Chairperson for the St. Jude Partnership, believes is within reach.

Sunday of Hope—and supporting St. Jude in general—has become an important program within Kappa Alpha Psi, Siegel says. Fraternity members are always asking him about the initiative and how they can get involved. “As they say, ‘By the grace of God go I.’ It could be any of us (with a child stricken with cancer). I think our members know that.”

January 2008

 

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