On a blustery winter night, while most students were tucked comfortably in their living rooms, three members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity were trying to study amidst the backdrop noise coming from Washtenaw Avenue.
Armed with a baseball bat for protection and wearing several layers of clothing to fight frostbite, LSA sophomores Russ Caskey and Tyler Keenan and Kinesiology sophomore Mike Fry have been living in a tent on the fraternity’s lawn since Monday night and will continue to do so until this coming Monday.
The campers are raising money for Pike’s March 15 Comedy Night, an annual charity event held by the fraternity.
The campers are asking other members of Pike to pledge one dollar per person per day for the duration of the campout. About 30 members of the fraternity have donated a total of about $650, Fry said.
All of the money collected will go toward Michigan Reach Out!, an Ann Arbor-based organization that sponsors youth mentoring programs.
The rules of the endeavor are strict. Caskey, Keenan and Fry can attend class, but they’re only allowed to enter the house to change their clothing, tend to their hygiene and get food – which must be consumed outside.
But the group hasn’t completely gone without, though.
For instance, the trio can’t go out to eat, but it has found at least one way to dodge that issue – having food delivered. Fry said they ordered pizza on one occasion.
The brothers also aren’t allowed to use electronics in the flimsy grey and red.
“We’re not going to cheat. We wouldn’t live it down,” he said. “We’ve gotten yelled at for going in to get our food.”
While all studying, sleeping and other activities must be done inside the close living quarters, the guys seem to be getting along just fine.
“They haven’t gotten on each other’s nerves – yet,” said LSA freshman Doug Cunningham, Pike’s public relations chair.
Keenan said the brothers who aren’t camping out have been supportive. They’ve sometimes shown it in strange ways, though – two brothers came out to the tent in the middle of the night and tried to scare the campers.
The campers have endured other midnight visitors, too.
“Wildlife is also kind of interesting, just hearing animals come up to the tent,” Fry said.
This is the first time Pike has held a charity camp-out.
Fry, the chair of Comedy Night, said he chose the unorthodox fundraising method because it would allow the rest of the fraternity brothers to be directly involved in the fundraising.
Fry said Pike chose to raise money for Michigan Reach Out! because of the relationship between the two groups. Members of the fraternity mentor children in the program.
“It has close ties to our house – over 130 brothers have been involved. It’s also a great charity for the Ann Arbor community,” he said. “We can bring out all the mentors and bring out some of the kids.”
Fry said living in the great outdoors has had at least one other added benefit.
“Part of the thing is that we can’t watch TV all week, which is actually good, because we’re going to be a lot more productive,” said Fry.