Thousands of University of Michigan students, including members of Fraternity & Sorority Life, gathered around the backyard ice rink at 700 Oxford Road on Feb. 19 for the annual Winterfest broomball tournament. The tournament was the culminating event in FSL’s 2022 philanthropic initiatives, with several chapters of the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and Panhellenic Association participating.
The historic Albert Lockwood, or Sigma Nu, fraternity house has historically hosted the tournament, until Sigma Nu was expelled from the IFC in 2009, leading to their removal from the house. The Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity occupied the house in Sigma Nu’s absence and took over hosting Winterfest in 2019. The University rechartered Sigma Nu in October 2020 and they, once again, took up residence at 700 Oxford. However, there was no official Winterfest last winter because of COVID-19 restrictions.
According to Sigma Nu, this year’s Winterfest raised a record-setting amount of $202,213 for three charities — Autism Alliance of Michigan, The Women’s Center of Southeastern Michigan and Fisher House Michigan — chosen by the IFC, Panhellenic Council and Sigma Nu. Each charity will receive a third of the proceeds. Chapters that donated more money received higher rankings in the preliminary broomball tournament bracket, which took place Feb. 18, the day before the main event. Each chapter engaged in different fundraising methods.
Business sophomore Cole Marshall, Sigma Nu president, told The Michigan Daily about the process of choosing which charities to donate to for this year’s Winterfest. He said each group chose an organization that corresponded with their values and that they felt would benefit the most from the donation.
“IFC, as a collective, picked a beneficiary that a third of the proceeds would go to, (Sigma Nu) picked a beneficiary that a third of the proceeds would go to and then (the Panhellenic Council) picked another beneficiary that received a third of the proceeds,” Marshall said. “There was collaboration and discussion about where values lie and where we think we can create the biggest impact with those donations.”
Engineering sophomore Josh Strand, philanthropy chair of Sigma Nu, said FSL members were excited to get back after not being able to get together for Winterfest in 2021. He said FSL chapters have been working to support safe social events this year so students can meet each other as campus organizations transition back to in-person operations.
“We’ve been taking a lot of time to individually talk to chapters, individually meet with as many presidents of sororities and fraternities as we possibly could,” Strand said. “(Sigma Nu has been) talking with the (Panhellenic Council) president and the IFC president individually about everything — our risk plan and any questions that they have. We’ve been trying to be as good as we possibly can about communication with everyone.”
Broomball — a sport similar to hockey — takes place on an ice rink, but players wear sneakers instead of skates. The game also entails using sticks that resemble brooms to pass a small ball around the rink and eventually shoot in a goal. Winterfest participants wore hockey and lacrosse helmets for added protection.
To combat the often physical nature of a broomball tournament, Strand said plenty of measures were taken to ensure the safety of those participating and attending the event. An ambulance was stationed on-site, as well as 20 hired security guards and the Ann Arbor Police Department, Strand said.
Marshall added that Sigma Nu’s specific health and safety plan was also designed to help mitigate COVID-19 related concerns.
“I think that coming forward with a really strong plan lets people know that the event is going to happen … and that people will be safe at the event,” Marshall said. “Those things are really important to a lot of the houses on campus and showing them the plan that (Sigma Nu) has just made everybody a little bit more excited about the event.”
Compared to previous Winterfest tournaments, which were kept exclusively within the FSL community, Strand and Marshall said this year’s event was open to anyone on campus who wanted to attend.
“There’s so many people in the community that contribute,” Marshall said. “We just thought it was a better way to engage the whole campus community if everybody feels welcome. It’s not exclusive. Anybody can show up for the event.”
Strand said making the event exclusive creates a further divide between FSL and the rest of the U-M community.
“There’s no point to (exclusivity) because we already feel like Greek Life is kind of alienated from the rest of the community,” Strand said. “I want to involve (other U-M students) as much as possible.”
Engineering sophomore Emma Smith, president of the Delta Gamma sorority, played in the broomball tournament this year. She said it was a memory she will look back upon for years to come and shared her experience as Delta Gamma’s goalie.
“I played goalie in one game which was fun but I didn’t have knee pads,” Smith said. “I was so bruised up, but it’s okay. It was worth it (because) we won the game … Everyone was cheering you on and it was a super fun, hype environment. The girls’ games are all pretty supportive.”
Sororities were matched up against other sororities, while fraternities competed against other fraternities.
Kinesiology sophomore Max Nemoy, Sigma Nu’s social chair, also participated in the tournament and said the atmosphere was not only fun, but also surprisingly competitive. Even though his team did not do the best at the tournament, Nemoy said all of the money FSL raised for charity was a more important win.
“It was definitely much more involved than I thought it would be, much more physical … but overall the energy was really good,” Nemoy said. “At the end of the day, we did this all for charity. So that was great. Our team individually did not do great (in the broomball tournament), but we did raise a lot of money.”
Daily News Contributor Natalie Anderson contributed to the reporting of this article.
Daily Staff Reporter Carlin Pendell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.