When most people talk about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, they speak metaphorically, but not the members of the University’s chapter of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.
About 40 fraternity members traveled 3.1 miles in wheelchairs throughout Ann Arbor yesterday as part of their third annual Wheel in their Shoes 5k fundraiser, which began and ended at the University Cardiovascular Center. The fraternity has raised a total of $3,200 to donate to the national philanthropy arm of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity called Push America and will continue to raise money during the remainder of the year.
The fraternity raised more than $1,000 last week, according to LSA sophomore Paul Willar, the fraternity’s philanthropy chair. The money raised goes to fund community outreach programs and local projects. Last year, Pi Kappa Phi donated $580 to the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living at its disability awareness dinner. In October, the fraternity plans to build a wheelchair ramp with funds from Push America for a disabled woman in Ypsilanti.
Last year, the fraternity’s fundraising goal was $3,500, but this year, the goal was doubled to $7,000. Willar said he’s optimistic about meeting the target because the fraternity has already raised $3,200, and the brothers set their own goal of $9,000 for the year.
LSA sophomore Demere Asmar said his parents were apprehensive about him joining a fraternity last year, but he stressed that Pi Kappa Phi is “not a stereotypical fraternity.”
“(Pi Kappa Phi) is not just a group of guys willing to drink … We want to help the community,” Asmar said.
LSA freshman Matthew Vallade, who observed the fraternity brothers wheeling through town, said the event is “a great way to raise awareness about a good cause.”
The event wasn’t like most fundraisers at the University, said LSA freshman Liz Rubin, who also observed the Wheel in their Shoes 5k.
“It’s creative, and it made a big statement,” she said. “You could see it happening all over campus.”
LSA senior Steven Turner, Pi Kappa Phi secretary, said the event not only raises disability awareness, but also allows the participants to experience what it’s actually like to have a disability.
“You really realize how difficult it must be to have a disability,” Turner said.
Willar added that he’s certain he’ll be sore in the morning after wheeling for five kilometers.
“It is a big physical struggle to do this 5k with just your arms,” he said.
Correction Appended: A previous version of this article misidentified the fraternity that participated in the Wheel in their Shoes 5k fundraiser. It was Pi Kappa Phi.