Gamma Phi Beta receives recognition for success in philanthropic efforts

Senior Clare Stewart said she got a figurative slap in the face four years ago when a Buckner Elementary student arrived to the after-school running program she coached as part of Girls on the Run (GOTR) and told everyone about her highs and lows for the day.

Her high for the day was practice and her low was that her dad was in prison.

For the sorority’s philanthropic effort — including Girls on the Run — Wichita State’s Gamma Phi Beta chapter recently received a letter of recognition from GOTR international because it raised $11,900 for the non profit organization in 2014, putting it among the top 10 fundraising chapters across the United States and Canada.

“Gamma Phi has about 180 chapters nationwide with many chapters three times our size, so it was amazing to be in the top ten,” said Stewart, president of Gamma Phi at WSU.

GOTR integrates running and life lessons to inspire girls to be healthy, joyful and confident. The program has two seasons — spring and fall — for third through eighth grade girls.

It ends with a 5K run celebration in November, which shows the girls how their efforts can pay off, Stewart said.

Gamma Phi raised the money with its annual 5K run, the Gamma PhiveK, in the fall of last year, garnering $6,400 from the 357 participants at the event, said senior Karley Nelson, Gamma Phi philanthropy chair. The remaining money came from a pasta palooza event in spring 2014.

On Oct. 18, Nelson said they were able to raise more than $10,000 from 440 participants at the 5K run. Nelson said it was surprising so much was raised since the goal was only $7,000.

“I think we raised so much money because there are a lot of people in the chapter who care so much about … our philanthropies,” Nelson said.

Christy Thomas, council director for GOTR in Sedgwick County, said 25 percent of Gamma Phi’s donations go to GOTR international to develop more curriculums, and 75 percent stays in Sedgwick County to help with scholarships for girls to participate.

Nelson said because of the donations this year, 110 girls will be provided with scholarships, which is important because Thomas said 65 percent of GOTR participants are not able to pay for the program.

Thomas said Gamma Phi works closely with GOTR by working as coaches (like Stewart), running buddies and  5K volunteers for GOTR at health fairs and expositions.

Community service was new to Stewart when she first moved to the U.S. in 2010 from England.

“I went every other week with this girl and connected with everything they were talking about,” Stewart said. “[GOTR] kind of tied in with everything I was going through. It really helped me, as well.”

Stewart’s younger sister is involved in the GOTR program, and Stewart said it is great to see the impact it is having on her.

“Right now our chapter is on a high,” Stewart said. “They are excited about GOTR and more and more girls want to be involved with coaching. Being recognized by international just makes us want to do more.”