During the long months fourth-year Lee Solomon spent training for a half-marathon, he became frustrated, tired, and even started to doubt his ability to complete the
13.1-mile trek. But he didn’t give up.
Solomon, senior executive officer of the U of C chapter of the international Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), traveled to Florida last week with six of his AEPi brothers to run the ING Miami Half Marathon. The fraternity members ran with 226 other members of the national runners’ group Team Lifeline, which raises money for the children’s non-profit charity Chai Lifeline. The international Jewish organization oversees 25 programs that provide health support for terminally ill children whose families demonstrate financial need.
“We were looking for an opportunity to give a big gift to them,” Solomon said.
Running in the half-marathon for the charity was Solomon’s idea. Earlier in the quarter, the fraternity made it a priority to raise money for Chai Lifeline, and Solomon raised the possibility of participating in the half-marathon to do so, he said.
For Solomon, the actual experience of race day was less painful than the many long training runs he and his frat brothers endured. “I think it’s all a part of the psychology of running,” he said. “The actual run is so much different than the training sessions because you run off the adrenaline of the people there. Running in a huge group of people is different than running on a treadmill at Ratner—it gives you that extra will.”
AEPi had originally planned to meet their fundraising goal through a combination of personal donations and AEPi philanthropic events, Solomon said. However, the fraternity was able to raise all of the money by soliciting support from family members and friends.
Community giving is integral to the mission of the U of C’s AEPi chapter, Solomon said.
“As responsible Jewish adults, we feel it is our duty to get involved in projects to help the Jewish community and the world, in some way,” he said. “There is a strong idea of giving in Judaism and this marathon is one way we could give back.”
AEPi chapters nationwide support charities through the umbrella organization’s international philanthropic task force, Solomon said. The U of C chapter fundraises for the Israeli medical center, Shaare Zedek, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in addition to supporting Chai Lifeline.
But the fraternity brothers say that running races isn’t the only activity on their philanthropic agenda. Third-year Ross Boltyanskiy, AEPi philanthropy chairman, said that during fall quarter, fraternity members held a drive to buy Christmas and Hanukkah toys for the children who enroll in Chai Lifeline’s programs.
“Community service is a bonding experience for the brothers. We go on these events, we organize them together, and make them work,” Boltyanskiy said. “A fraternity is not just about having parties and socials. We do community service.”
Solomon added that improving the U of C campus and the larger community through service is a central component of AEPi’s objectives and lamented the fact that many U of C students maintain a one-dimensional view of Greek life.
He also said that future Greek charity initiatives might be better organized if there was an efficient mode of communication among the various fraternities and sororities.
“At our school...there is no central way for Greek life to communicate with each other,” he said. “It would be great if the University had a way to promote Greek life service.”