A pancake dinner, softball tournament, letter writing campaign and cheer competition organized by The University of Southern Mississippi’s Delta Delta Delta sorority raised thousands of dollars for patients at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
On Feb. 20, USM’s Tri Delta sorority won Overall Chapter of the Year, and former Tri Delta Philanthropy Chairman Betsy Mercier won Philanthropy Chairman of the Year at the St. Jude Leadership weekend in Memphis.
Mercier, an elementary education major, said she heard the news she won Philanthropy Chairman of the Year while at a baseball game.
“I was at the USM baseball game that Saturday and saw the notification on my phone from the Tri Delta national Twitter and just started crying,” Mercier said.
According to the St. Jude website, over 400 Tri Delta women attended the event, including junior polymer science major and Tri Delta Philanthropy Chairman Gabbie Munn and freshman media production major Beth Cunningham.
Cunningham said every Tri Delta chapter nationwide sent two members to represent their respective chapter.
“This year, we were asked to send the philanthropy chair as well as one emerging leader from the chapter to attend,” Cunningham said. “The weekend was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Seeing how many Tri Delta alumni members have carried [on] the passion for St. Jude [that] we all form during college into their careers was exciting. It was also incredibly humbling to be able to interact with the patients and the patients’ families.”
Munn said USM was selected out of 139 total chapters nationwide by a board from St. Jude and the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC).
“It was a huge honor to be recognized in that way,” Munn said. “We work really hard, and our number one goal is always to give 100 percent for the kids at St. Jude. It was a reminder to me how talented and special our individual members are.”
Cunningham said St. Jude hosted the weeken =d to show their appreciation for Tri Delta’s fundraising efforts and to give the sorority members a personal experience with the hospital, staff and patients.
“My sorority experience has been so centered around philanthropy and the mission of St. Jude,” Cunningham said. “My favorite aspect of the weekend was getting to see what all of our efforts are actually going toward. I was definitely inspired by this weekend. While awards and recognition are great, that’s not why we do what we do. That comes as a result of our passion for these children.”
Munn said that the weekend’s events offered a patient panel, a women in leadership panel, Tri Delta Place tours, a doctor-patient panel and an inside look on how they make documentaries for the patients and hospitals.
Tri Delta formed a philanthropic partnership with St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in 1999.
In 2014, the sorority committed to raising $60 million in 10 years to name the Tri Delta Place, a short-term housing facility on the hospital’s campus, according to Tri Delta’s website. Overall, Tri Delta’s philanthropic efforts have raised $40 million for St. Jude’s. USM’s own Tri Delta chapter raised more than $86,000 last year alone.
Tri Delta hosts three events annually: a softball tournament, a letter writing campaign and a golf tournament.
Mercier said she initiated the fourth fundraising event.
“[We] have had three events in the past years, and when I got the position, I added the fourth event,” Mercier said. “It was Tri-Hop, a late night pancake dinner with a pancake eating contest, live music and a slide show from St. Jude. It was our first time to do it, and we raised over $10,000.”
Munn said this year Tri Delta will host a new event called Movies for Miracles, which will be held at the Town Square Park downtown. The event will have live music and a screening of “The Sandlot.”
Cunningham said she believes USM’s Tri Delta chapter received recognition because the mission of St. Jude – “so no child will die in the dawn of life” – is an ideal deeply ingrained in Phi Epsilon.
“I was inspired by the patients and families as well as the atmosphere of the hospital,” Cunningham said. “It’s an incredible place that is dedicated to service and saving lives and that dedication is evident in every single person within the facility. That’s what makes Tri Delta so special, the fact that we get to be a part of what goes on [at St. Jude].”
USM’s Tri Delta chapter proved that size does not necessarily matter. As a silver group – the small to medium size chapter – the philanthropic efforts raised by these sorority members surpass expectations for any size group.