Burn center gets boost from VCU fraternity

When a 2012 dormitory fire at Hampden-Sydney College left two students severely burned, Grant Day (B.S.’13/H&S) knew he’d found the perfect philanthropic match for his fraternity.

“My good friend, Kirk Rohle, rushed back to the dorm and into the fire to save his buddy,” Day said. “He suffered from some pretty significant burns and was treated at the Evans-Haynes Burn Center. He inspired us.”

That inspiration led Day and his fraternity brothers at the burgeoning Lambda Chi Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha at Virginia Commonwealth University to organize the Fireman’s Challenge fundraising event in support of the center in 2012.

In just three short years, the Fireman’s Challenge has raised nearly $20,000.

“It’s a weeklong event with a yearlong donation process that typically culminates the last week of April,” Day said. “It’s a student-run effort to raise money for a great cause. It’s a passion I wanted to leave to VCU.”

The event is now in the hands of nursing student and Pi Kappa Alpha External Vice President Alexander Satoski, who expects to graduate in 2017, and the fraternity’s philanthropy Chair Chris Sommer, who expects to graduate this year.

The week’s activities involve VCU fraternities and sororities that compete in a variety of challenges from a dodgeball tournament to a feed-the-firefighters culinary event all while raising money for the Evans-Haynes Burn Center. Members of the Richmond Fire Department assist by providing firefighting equipment and trucks for the culminating outdoor water event at Richmond’s Abner Clay Park.

Donations come from across the country, Sommer said, along with support from fire departments throughout Virginia.

“The impact of the Fireman’s Challenge is enormous,” said Michael Feldman, M.D. (M.S.’99/M; M.D.’03/M; H.S. ’09/M), director of Evans-Haynes Burn Center at the VCU Medical Center. “What these students have accomplished is outstanding. They have raised thousands of dollars to support our research.”

Nurses at the burn center work to improve burn-care safety and efficiency through research and submit their findings for presentation at regional burn meetings in hopes of publication.

“There’s no money to have your nurses travel to present their research,” Feldman said. “It’s an amazing opportunity and it wouldn’t be possible without these funds. Improving care through research is one of our key missions and it helps keep us the only verified burn center in Virginia.”

The brothers of Pi Kappa Alpha and the hundreds of participants in the Fireman’s Challenge are committed to keep the funds coming in year after year.

“Campus outreach was enormous this year,” Satoski said. “Members of the baseball team and its coaching staff donated and helped us reach out to the community, many students from across campus contributed and our brothers donated as much as they could. That’s what it’s all about. It adds up and really makes a difference. We’re hoping the event grows in popularity and contributions every year.”

To learn more about the Fireman’s Challenge, contact Lauren Moore, senior development officer, VCU Medical Center, at (804) 828-4030 or lzmoore@mcvh-vcu.edu.