To support two brothers recently diagnosed with cancer, Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity has raised more than $30,000 for cancer research and programs at Duke Children’s Hospital.
Junior Petros Palandjian—president of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity—and senior Will Clark have led the efforts to raise money on behalf of junior Mark Schreiber and freshman Bobby Menges. The GoFundMe page raised $10,000 in the first seven hours after it was created and $20,000 in the first 24 hours of its activity. An additional $3,000 were raised through an auction at Devine’s Restaurant and Sports Bar Thursday.
“We had a lot of support off the bat,” Palandjian said. “It affects everyone in different ways, and it’s been cool to see how everyone wants to get involved.”
In addition to the ongoing online fundraising efforts, the fraternity will be hosting events throughout the week, including a bake sale and t-shirt sale. Pi Kappa Alpha will hold a barbecue outside their section in Craven Quadrangle Friday during which approximately 45 brothers plan to shave their heads in solidarity with Schreiber and Menges.
Schreiber, who was diagnosed with brain cancer during winter break, said that he was moved by the support he has received from current brothers, alumni, other organizations on campus and parents.
“It’s hard to not have a positive outlook when people have your back and really care about you,” Schreiber said. “I can’t tell you how much it means to me.”
Menges was diagnosed with neuroblastoma—which he had first when he was five years old and again when he was nine—but said that the peer support from his fraternity brothers, especially his pledge class, has made this recurrence distinct.
“My pledge class made this card for me with individual notes and inside jokes,” Menges said. “It seems simple, but it really meant a lot to me. I still have the card hanging in my room.”
The fundraising efforts have started to expand beyond Duke to local and national levels, Palandjian said. He noted that 25 other chapters of Pi Kappa Alpha have provided support, and said some small businesses have contributed as well.
As a result of the response that the GoFundMe page has received, the goal—which started as $10,000—has been increased multiple times, Schreiber said. As of Monday night, the page had almost 400 donations and 2,000 shares.
Palandjian noted that he is optimistic Schreiber will beat his cancer.
“He’s a pretty special kid and insanely smart,” Palandjian said. “He’s one of the toughest kids I know. We know he’s going to overcome this, and that’s always been my attitude.”
Palandjian said that he first met Menges during the pre-orientation program Project Waves, and he immediately found him outgoing and funny.
“I remember visiting him in the hospital the day he was diagnosed, and he was sitting there cracking jokes,” Palandjian said.
Schreiber said that the fraternity decided to donate the money raised to Duke Children’s Hospital to support cancer patients between the ages of 15 and 29—like himself and Menges—who cannot be treated as pediatric or adult cases.
“It can be such a disruptive thing in your life. You’re not supposed to get cancer when you’re young,” Schreiber said. “There’s a lot of resources aimed toward really young kids, and there are a lot of other resources aimed for adults, but they don’t really know where to put us.”
Both Schreiber and Menges are taking medical leave from Duke this semester to receive treatment close to home at Stanford University Medical Center and Winthrop University Hospital in New York, respectively. Palandjian said that members of the fraternity have remained in contact with both throughout the process and Menges will be visiting campus for the event Friday and a group of brothers will be visiting Schreiber during spring break.
“We feel like a family in a large part,” Palandjian said. “[A fraternity] is supposed to be about getting through things together, and it’s always weird having someone who’s not here.”