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VCU fraternity fundraiser aims to raise $40,000 for VCU Health Evans-Haynes Burn Center

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Tug of war competition from a previous Fireman’s Challenge event at VCU.

After getting an up-close tour of the VCU Health Evans-Haynes Burn Center last year, Virginia Commonwealth University senior Zachary Watson was inspired to do more to help its patients.

“I was speechless as we were being told what the burn victims endured on a daily basis and how strong they were in their recoveries,” he said.

For this year’s VCU Fireman’s Challenge fundraiser, Watson’s fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, is determined to raise $40,000 — $10,000 more than last year’s challenge. Seven VCU sororities and one combined VCU women’s athletics team (soccer and field hockey) are competing in this year’s event, which is PIKE’s annual philanthropic effort to benefit and raise awareness for the VCU Health Evans-Haynes Burn Center. The fraternity has partnered with VCU Medical Center and Richmond Fire Department for the weeklong campaign, April 9-15. The spirited competitions include an iron chef cook off and a volleyball tournament. Each challenge presents the chance for teams to earn a specific number of points. A member of PIKE will serve as a coach for each team.

One of PIKE’s goals is improving the community through elective fundraising and public service events. VCU’s Fireman’s Challenge began in 2012 and has since generated more than $90,000. It has grown to be the largest student-run philanthropy project at the university, said Watson, the PIKE philanthropy chair.

The event is free to participants. Funds are raised through local and regional business sponsorships, and participants’ matched, voluntary donations. Funding goes toward burn staff training, burn rehabilitation equipment, and toys for youth patients staying at the center. At week’s end, the team with the most points co-signs a check with PIKE that is presented to the Evans-Haynes Burn Center.

Previous Fireman’s Challenge event participants at VCU Cary Street Field.
Previous Fireman’s Challenge event participants at VCU Cary Street Field.

It is a fun way to give back, Watson said.

“I want to ensure that we were able to benefit those patients as much as possible going forward,” he said.

The VCU Health Evans-Haynes Burn Center is a 16-bed unit with an eight-bed ICU and eight nonacute beds. The center treats between 400 and 450 patients annually, including pediatric and adult burn patients. It is the only verified burn center in Virginia and treats patients with acute burns and handles the reconstructive needs of burn survivors and those injured from fire, chemical, scalds, electrical burns and disease-related skin loss. The center embraces a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to burn care by focusing on patients’ mental, physical and holistic needs.

“We are so thrilled and impressed by Pi Kappa Alpha’s mindset and intention to help Evans-Haynes Burn Center,” said Burn Center Nurse Manager Wendy Lugo. “This financial support, indeed, goes a long way in helping us to help those in our care.”

As a result of his tour of the center with his fraternity, Watson now schedules tours for the teams participating in the Fireman’s Challenge.

“That experience developed a deep, intimate connection between all of us and the Evans-Haynes Burn Center, and it's that same intimate connection that we now extend to our participants,” he said. “In addition to the funding, we’re encouraging others to care.”

The final competitions this week include a volleyball tournament April 13 at the Sweet Frog on 815 W. Cary St. and a field day at the VCU Cary Street Field on April 15. For more information visit http://firemanschallenge.org.

 

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