Fraternities collaborate to save Florida springs


Bringing together the combined efforts of nine USF fraternities, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) coordinated a campaign that played on competition between Greek organizations and culminated Sunday afternoon in a series of performances for IFC’s first collaborative philanthropy initiative.

Sunday’s event, “SHOW-UP!,” in the Marshall Student Center’s Oval Theater featured fraternity members competing in skits that included time-traveling rock stars, $1,500 in donations and environmental education to promote support for the approximately 1,000 natural springs from the Florida aquifer, the largest source of freshwater in the state.

The campaign raised a total of $1,500 with the most, $450, coming from Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE).

Van Hoda, director of philanthropy for IFC, said the original thought behind the initiative came from a desire of IFC’s to take part in a cause that students could “immediately see” results in and that was “more personal” to those who live in Florida.

“We wanted to take part in a philanthropy that would reverberate with everyone in the community… and that needed help,” Hoda said. “We didn’t want to just Google and donate to a generic organization that probably receives millions every year across the country.”

Bob Knight, founder of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, opened the event after a brief video played, illustrating the threats facing Florida’s aquatic ecosystem such as pollution, over-pumping and resulting poisonous algae blooms.

The combined amount raised by the fraternities, Knight said, is the biggest donation the Florida Springs Institute has ever received.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Knight said. “I was really pleased to see local groups getting involved with a local issue. This is a statewide issue, and USF is leading part of the initiative… It’s very impressive.”

While Hoda said he has plans to extend to “SHOW-UP!” to other college campuses in the state, Knight said he similarly hopes other chapters of the Greek organizations that participated at USF will participate in schools around the state.

Knight said despite providing 90 percent of the state’s fresh drinking water and hundreds of millions of dollars to the state’s tourist-based economy, the springs have been further burdened by a decline in support from the state.

“Our state government decided it is not able to continue funding,” Knight said. “Its not a big enough priority (to legislators).”

However, Knight said the Greek community at USF has taken the biggest stance on the issue.

Hoda said IFC’s campaign for Florida’s springs has included months of preparation, with events such as selling Tampa Bay Rays tickets to a game last week to members of the Greek community and donating 20 percent of sales, collecting donations and selling T-shirts and wristbands to support the springs.

Anthony Nunnally, a senior majoring in criminology and president of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, said the environment was a uniting factor for the fraternities.

“It’s something we can all come together and support as a one group,” Nunnally said.

Kappa Sigma started the performances with a skit of several college students cramming for a final exam in an environmental science course. The next group to perform on stage was Chi Phi, whose fraternity members did a skit about two aspiring rock stars who travel back in time to study Florida history, during which the characters met historical figures like Juan Ponce de Leon.

Alex Watts, fundraising chair for Chi Phi, said he came up with the idea after watching the movie “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and thought it would be fun to use the characters in the “SHOW-UP!” skit to connect with characters like Ponce de Leon, who first discovered Florida’s natural springs hundreds of years ago.

“It would be cool to try something like that, and incorporate Florida’s history and information about the springs into it,” Watts said.

Chi Phi’s vice-president, Jose Suarez, said saving Florida’s natural springs is an important cause to his fraternity, which makes a weeklong trip Ginnie Springs each spring semester.

“It was an important cause for us to get involved in together,” he said. “We wanted to bring a lot of awareness to the springs.”

Alpha Sigma Phi concluded the performances with a fraternity member who gave a monologue about the life of a rock, whose struggles informed the audience about the flow of water.

PIKE’s president Scott Sandoval said his fraternity worked to collect donations for what they considered a “necessary” part of life in Florida.

“(The springs are) an integral part of our history and our future,” Sandoval said.

At the event, audience members were encouraged to sign a petition sponsored by the Florida Springs Institute. Debra Segal, a volunteer from the Florida Springs Institute, said the petition would propose an amendment dedicating “funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.”

“The current administration has taken funding from protecting the aquifers to contribute to other state projects,” Segal said. “Our goal is get at least 640,000 signatures by the end of the year so it could be on the 2014 ballot.”

Segal said the Florida Springs Institute had already collected almost 110,000 signatures for the petition.

Segal, who was a judge for the skit competition, said the event was fun and she “enjoyed the creative skits” by the fraternities.