This week’s chapter spotlight is Zeta Iota (Virginia), who recently hosted their fourth annual Thankful 5K in memory of two Zeta Iota sisters, Casey Schulman and Shelley Goldsmith. This year’s Thankful 5K was more successful than ever before with 830 registrants! Brooke Baader, former Vice President of Marketing and Director of Philanthropy, shares what this success and the event itself means to the chapter.
Event Name: Thankful 5K
Location: Nameless Field, University of Virginia
How many times have you held this event?
We just hosted our fourth Thankful 5K. It started in 2013, right after Shelley passed away.
What makes this event so special? What inspired your chapter to start hosting the event?
This event is extremely near to our hearts because it honors two of our Zeta Iota sisters, Casey Schulman and Shelley Goldsmith, who both passed away. While Casey was on Semester at Sea, her professor asked her to write one word on a piece of paper to describe how she was feeling at that moment. While many of her classmates wrote “nervous” or “excited,” Casey wrote “thankful.” Casey and Shelley were thankful for every opportunity that they were afforded in their lives, and their passion for life continues to inspire us. We started this race in remembrance of Casey and Shelley as a way to represent the light that they brought to our lives. Now, in its fourth year, many of the current chapter members didn’t know Casey and Shelley personally, but the fact that their legacy has been remembered so vividly and in such an impactful way makes everyone who participates feel like they knew them.
What specifically did you do or change this year that contributed to the high success of the event?
This year, we really wanted to promote the event in a way that Casey and Shelley would’ve wanted. Rather than just focusing on monetary success, we wanted to truly encompass the gratitude that Casey and Shelley expressed every single day of their lives. Inspired by an event that was held at Casey’s high school, we decided to make the week leading up to the race “Shine on Week.” During that week, we performed random acts of kindness. We decorated coffee cups and passed out coffee to students, passed out flowers to those who stopped by to learn more about the race, and encouraged everyone to stop and take a second to write a ”Thank You” note to someone who had impacted them recently. With this focus on the true meaning of the race, we believe we were able to successfully spread awareness about the event and convey the meaning it holds for each chapter member to the community.
What was your chapter’s reaction to this year’s success?
We joke in our chapter that the Thankful 5K is like an Alpha Phi’s Christmas morning. It sounds cliché, but it is hands down the happiest day of the year to be an Alpha Phi at UVA. Even before we had the final number of registrants and money raised on race day, you could feel the energy that came from every chapter member being so invested in the event’s success. I remember the “wow, we really did it” feeling as I counted down to the race start on the megaphone with Olivia, our Director of Philanthropy. I think that’s when I realized how impactful this event really is.
How does this event empower your chapter?
Seeing Casey and Shelley’s families at the race each year really brings everything that we do full circle and reminds us the true meaning of the race. After the race every year, both families write us the most beautiful notes about how proud they are and how much they enjoyed the 5K. We always read them aloud to the entire chapter, and hearing the impact that we have on their families empowers us to continue to work harder each year to make the next Thankful 5K even more successful.