When Casey Syron tells stories about his father, motion-sickness-inducing car rides and silly voices at the McDonald’s drive-thru are some of the first stories he shares.
But beneath the junior’s joking and laughter is a more serious story.
His father, Tom Syron, is battling cancer for the fourth time. Casey Syron’s fraternity, Delta Tau Delta, is stepping up to help by putting the money it raises from fall philanthropy toward the Syron family’s medical expenses.
Last year, Tom Syron was diagnosed with stage-four stomach cancer, which has spread to his liver. He receives chemotherapy treatment every other week and has been too sick to work. Since 1988, he has also battled colon and kidney cancer.
“My dad is the silliest guy,” Casey Syron said. “He deserves nothing but the best to happen to him, and it’s really unfortunate that a situation like this has brought him down.”
The fraternity has raised more than $8,700 just days into its philanthropy blitz, which Greek sororities and fraternities commit to for one week every year. Delt has already raised more than double the total amount it collected last year for juvenile diabetes.
Donations to the Syron family will still be accepted once the week wraps up, and the fundraisers will also support the Katie Moore Foundation, which studies rare cancers.
Delt’s philanthropy chair, Tim Kenna, has spent the last three months planning the effort with other fraternity brothers.
“We realized what a great idea it would be to work with Casey and help his family out. It just kind of snowballed. There have been things we were going with and changes of plans, and now everything is kind of coming together,” Kenna said.
The fraternity’s donation website boasts visitors from five continents, and students not involved in Greek life on campus have also made donations to the cause. Bart Kogan, the alumnus whose donation created Kogan Plaza, met Casey Syron several years ago and gave $500.
On-campus fundraising events will include Captain Cookie and Sweetgreen fundraisers, penny wars, a cookout at the Delt house and a tournament for sororities to play the bean-bag-toss game known as cornhole.
“We make it a policy to do at least one fundraiser per week,” said Captain Cookie owner Kirk Francis. “We’re down with charities, and this seemed like a good one.”
Nine of GW’s 11 sororities have signed on to the philanthropy and cornhole tournament, including Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Delta. Beta Theta Pi fraternity also purchased a cornhole set crafted by Delt brothers to support them.
The Greek community makes up about 30 percent of GW’s undergraduate population, putting strength in numbers behind Delt’s philanthropy effort.
“The GW Greek community tends to rally most efficiently when one of its members is in need of help and support,” said Erin Brainard, the Panhellenic Association’s communications chair.
And as the money pours in, Delt’s efforts are not going unnoticed. Casey Syron said his dad sends him a text message almost every day, asking him to “tell the guys” he’s grateful.
“It’s just amazing to see how thankful he is for the efforts we’ve done, and he realizes how hard we’re all working to make this effort for him and my family,” Casey Syron said.
The work has also helped bring members of Delt together as they’ve spent late nights planning for the events and building cornhole sets, which include small bean bags and wooden platforms.
“I’ve been in the chapter for a little over two years, and this is by the greatest sense of unity I’ve felt in the Greek community as a Delt,” said Charlie Temkin, the fraternity’s vice president.
Delt brothers have changed their Facebook profile pictures to publicize their efforts and to further spread the word, senior Brian Doyle made a video to show the impact of Tom Syron’s illness on the family.
Doyle flew to Casey Syron’s hometown of Chicago in early August to meet his friend’s family and shoot the video.
The video shows the family members playing in their front yard, dancing in the kitchen and includes interviews with Casey Syron’s mother and three siblings about how cancer has affected them.
“Actually seeing his father, seeing his family, seeing the difference of how his father has physically changed in the past two years, which shows in the video, was important for me to get across,” Doyle said.
Since the video launched on Sunday, it has wracked up more than 1,000 views on YouTube. The video has helped mobilize students behind the cause, Casey Syron said, as students share it on Facebook and Twitter.
“Random sisters from different sororities are messaging me on Facebook saying, ‘I’m personally connected to this story. I saw your video that Brian made – it’s amazing,’” he said. “And then they’re pledging ‘X’ amount of dollars because of the video or just because they saw the website.”