JMU Brothers Come Together for Brain Injury Victims
By Rick Moore
After recently hearing of the plight of a KA alumnus with a terminal brain condition whose family needed support, the brothers of Zeta Theta at James Madison University banded together to raise money for them. And then, the men of the chapter went even further, raising additional funds for a nonprofit organization in their own area that is dedicated to helping people with brain injuries.
Coming to the financial aid of their afflicted KA brother (whose name is not being revealed for privacy reasons) involved holding fundraising events, not always an easy feat in this age of COVID-19. So the men undertook a variety of virtual events that netted about $12,000 for the man and his family, in addition to another $2,000 for Brain Injury Connections of the Shenandoah Valley (BICSV), which provides services for individuals affected by brain injury in the Shenandoah Valley area of Virginia.
Drake Tomasi (Zeta Theta–James Madison ’19) and Andrew Walko (Zeta Theta–James Madison ’18), the Number I and the philanthropy chair of Zeta Theta, respectively, helped mount the fundraising campaigns, which also involved the sons of the BICSV’s director, who are both KA actives themselves.
“I had gotten an e-mail from an alumnus who graduated the same year as this brother who needed assistance,” Tomasi said. “A couple of alumni had actually started to organize a fundraising effort and reached out to me about it. I met with them and discussed it, and I spoke to the chapter, and we all decided to have our KA for a Cause philanthropy go to him. It was a great cause and we had just finished raising funds for the Independence Fund. It seemed like the perfect thing to do, to give back to him.”
“None of us had ever met the gentleman, but once a KA, always a KA, so we were happy to help.”
Of the $12,000 final tally, Tomasi said, “We also reached out to the sororities on campus, who were a great help. And it was lots and lots of alumni donations, one alumnus donated $1,000 straight up. We sent out an e-mail to our alumni e-mail chain about what was going on and about if they would like to donate, and we had an alumni match challenge. We raised around $6,000 on our own, and the alumni matched that.”
“It was an extremely sad situation for this family,” said Walko. “None of us had ever met the gentleman, but once a KA, always a KA, so we were happy to help. We did all virtual events that we were able to livestream because of COVID-19. We had such events as a Nugget Eating Competition and Pie-A-KA, which allowed people to donate and tune in online as if it were in person. We were really happy to be able to do this for our brother.”
“We had done our fundraising virtually in the fall, so we had a decent idea of how to do it,” Tomasi said. “We then sent that $12,000 amount to a GoFundMe page that had been set up for the brother.”
The chapter then undertook yet another fundraising push in the same arena, this time for BICSV, whose director, Cindy Noftsinger, is the mother of Zack Noftsinger (Zeta Theta–James Madison ’17) and Jake Noftsinger (Zeta Theta–James Madison ’20).
“I was talking to my sons one evening,” Cindy Noftsinger said, “and they told me the story about this brother, about how they were going to be kicking off KA for a Cause to raise money for him. We were going into the big giving season for our community, doing an event called the Great Community Give, and I wondered if I could get KA to adopt us for a day. I got Andrew’s information, and Drake Tomasi is a family friend, so I reached out to him too and had a quick call with them. They took it to the chapter and the men were all in, and said they would set a goal of $1,000 for us. KA came in and doubled that goal, and ended up being our largest donor that day with a $2,000 gift.”
“This wasn’t something they had to do. This was something they all embraced to take care of a brother, and to support our organization because they knew it was the right thing to do.”
Walko said that, with the knowledge the men had developed when it came to virtual fundraising, they were able to use those methods once again to raise money for the BICSV. “We switched on a dime and mostly used Instagram as a big outlet for fundraising for BICSV,” he said.
“Cindy reached out and asked if we’d like to help out,” Tomasi said, “and we used a ‘Venmo Triangle’ on Instagram, and our guys went out and talked to the parents and other people, and we were happy to raise the money for her organization. Next semester we’ll probably start out with our usual philanthropy MDA again.”
“I was impressed,” said Cindy Noftsinger, who is a JMU graduate herself. She later rewarded freshman Andrew Carrano (Zeta Theta–James Madison ’20) with a $100 bill as the brother who raised the most for the BICSV. “This wasn’t something they had to do. This was something they all embraced to take care of a brother, and to support our organization because they knew it was the right thing to do.”