Tri Delta pushes through pandemic to raise record amount for St. Jude

Emory University Tri Delta chapter looks forward to its fall event, Trihop. The annual pancake breakfast raises a lot of money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Pictured from left: Sofia Sarmiento, Danielle Jacoby and Natalia Szalay. Courtesy of Emory Tri Delta

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Emory University Tri Delta chapter looks forward to its fall event, Trihop. The annual pancake breakfast raises a lot of money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Pictured from left: Sofia Sarmiento, Danielle Jacoby and Natalia Szalay. Courtesy of Emory Tri Delta

Tri Delta women in metro Atlanta helped their sisters across North America pull off something that surprised even the organization’s CEO.

The international women’s fraternity completed a 10-year fundraising goal of $60 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital two years ahead of schedule. It is the largest commitment ever fulfilled by a St. Jude partner.

Domino’s Pizza recently pledged $100 million to St. Jude, but that corporate money will be collected over the next 10 years. Tri Delta’s funds were raised primarily by college students who also had to contend with a pandemic during the past two years.

Tri Delta CEO Karen Hughes White, a Georgia native, said she was amazed by the accomplishment. Though she anticipated meeting the ambitious fundraising goal, she never thought the fraternity sisters would reach it so quickly.

“By and large, the fundraising and commitment are driven by women 18 to 22 years old, full-time college students. It is humbling that they raised this much,” said White, a Tri Delta sister from Brenau University and her alma mater, the University of Georgia.

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Tri Delta CEO Karen Hughes White

Credit: spe

Tri Delta CEO Karen Hughes White

Credit: spe

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Tri Delta CEO Karen Hughes White

Credit: spe

Credit: spe

St. Jude is the only charitable recipient of Tri Delta, which represents 20,000 members from 140 collegiate chapters in Canada and the United States. There are also alumni chapters.

Tri Delta chapters in Georgia – both alumni and collegians – contributed heartily to the fundraising. The University of Georgia chapter raised $59,800, and Emory University Tri Delta brought in just over $8,000.

In addition, the Tri Delta Atlanta GA Alumnae Chapter has raised $11,000 for St. Jude since 2018.

In 2014, Tri Delta set the fundraising goal of $60 million by 2024, and in honor of this pledge, St. Jude named its on-campus, short-term housing facility Tri Delta Place. The facility provides a home away from home for patient families. Earlier this year, it hosted several Ukrainian families displaced by the war so their children could receive cancer treatments.

St. Jude’s commitment is to never bill a family for treatment, travel, housing or food while their child is hospitalized.

Tri Delta sisters at Emory helped spread the word about the hospital’s assistance to Ukrainian families. During the chapter’s spring letter-writing campaign, Sincerely Yours, sisters hand-wrote letters and sent emails asking friends and family to pledge a gift to the research hospital. The hospital’s humanitarian effort in Ukraine was a highlight in the letters and a motivating factor for Tri Delta members, said Talya Kovalsky, the chapter’s vice president of community relations.

“I think it really motivated our members to partake in Sincerely Yours and give it their all, writing as many letters as possible and adding personal touches to the letters,” she said.

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Emory Tri Delta sisters gather to write fundraising letters for St. Jude. Photo courtesy of Emory Tri Delta

Credit: spe

Emory Tri Delta sisters gather to write fundraising letters for St. Jude. Photo courtesy of Emory Tri Delta

Credit: spe

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Emory Tri Delta sisters gather to write fundraising letters for St. Jude. Photo courtesy of Emory Tri Delta

Credit: spe

Credit: spe

The Emory chapter also raised funds at Trihop, a campus-wide pancake breakfast. Kovalskky said students look forward to this event every fall and were eager to have it back after the previous pandemic-related cancellation.

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Emory University Tri Delta members raise most of their charitable donations through Trihop, a pancake breakfast and fun event on campus. Photo courtesy of Emory University Tri Delta

Credit: spe

Emory University Tri Delta members raise most of their charitable donations through Trihop, a pancake breakfast and fun event on campus. Photo courtesy of Emory University Tri Delta

Credit: spe

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Emory University Tri Delta members raise most of their charitable donations through Trihop, a pancake breakfast and fun event on campus. Photo courtesy of Emory University Tri Delta

Credit: spe

Credit: spe

Students purchased tickets for pancakes and shirts, and for some, the privilege of throwing a whipped cream “pie” in a sister’s face. It’s all for fun and to support St. Jude.

“Trihop is the one that gets us the most excited, and we have a nice turnout every year,” Kovalsky said.

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Emory University Tri Delta member Julia Tenner takes a pie in the face for a good cause and the annual Trihop fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Emory Tri Delta

Credit: spe

Emory University Tri Delta member Julia Tenner takes a pie in the face for a good cause and the annual Trihop fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Emory Tri Delta

Credit: spe

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Emory University Tri Delta member Julia Tenner takes a pie in the face for a good cause and the annual Trihop fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Emory Tri Delta

Credit: spe

Credit: spe

While Tri Delta campus events were limited because of COVID-19 restrictions, overall donations went up because the pandemic motivated fundraising, White said.

“We found there was greater participation when people could get back in person,” she said. “We all felt so hopeless during the pandemic, so the opportunity to step in and have a purpose and do something that made an impact seemed to appeal to students.”

White said it was unusual for any fraternity or sorority to raise this much money. However, Tri Delta accomplished the goal because St. Jude works closely with chapters as fundraising partners, often sending families and former patients to speak at events.

White formerly worked for St. Jude in funding and leading corporate partnerships. She was part of the team that put the fundraising opportunity together for Tri Delta.

“We’ve learned that our women respond when we set big, ambitious goals. They’re determined to outdo themselves over and over again. It’s been fun to see them get motivated by the challenge,” White said.


HOW TO HELP ST. JUDE

St. Jude Walk/Run is Sept. 17, with fundraising events nationwide, including Atlanta. Register at: www.stjude.org/get-involved/fitness-fundraisers/5k-walk-run.html

St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is Dec. 3. Register at: www.stjude.org/get-involved/fitness-fundraisers/memphis-marathon/register.html