Indiana University junior Brian Levitas was getting ready to celebrate Halloween at the end of October when he got a much scarier piece of news: he’d been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. This vicious cancer, which tends to attack younger adults, can be difficult to fight, and he immediately made arrangements to put college on hold, return home to Chicago, and start treatment.
Temporarily dropping out of college and leaving his social life behind must have been wrenching, but he knew he needed to act fast to put his cancer on the defensive. Fortunately, his story didn’t end with isolation in his house while he underwent grueling cancer treatments, because his fraternity refused to forget their stricken brother.
Instead, they decided to join the Movember movement, also known as No-Shave November, refusing to shave for a month as a charity fundraising effort. Their goal was to raise $500 for lymphoma research, but within just a few days, they’d raised almost $60,000, and started a movement that spread to multiple campuses. His brother and father (seen with Brian above) joined in, and suddenly he went from being frightened and alone with a cancer diagnosis to being surrounded by friends and allies across the country, all of whom put down their razors to join the fight against cancer.
His fraternity brothers post daily updates so he can check in from Chicago, and meanwhile, their bearded appearances on campus are turning heads. They say their beards make great conversation starters, allowing them to spread lymphoma awareness and get other students interested in contributing to cancer research and support. Their work is an excellent example of an awareness campaign backed by action, transforming a simple gesture into something that will have a positive effect for the community.
The brothers are tapping into an important part of cancer care: the mental aspect. Admitting that they couldn’t provide the help Brian needed on the treatment end, they saw an obvious need for emotional support for their brother, and they kept that in mind with their fundraising efforts as well. Their funds are going not just to lymphoma research, but also to organizations that provide camp experiences for kids with cancer, offering the opportunity for enriching emotional experiences for children who might otherwise feel isolated by cancer.
Many cancer patients report that in addition to struggling with treatment, they also experience depression and other complex emotions as they deal with their diagnoses, treatment and recovery process. Organizations that promote opportunities to bond with other patients, engage in normal activities, and create supportive environments work on bolstering patients emotionally so that they can fight their cancer more effectively; research shows that patient attitudes can influence outcomes.
This fraternity’s dedication to their brother isn’t the only time a frat has been in the news recently for providing support to a member who needs help. At Emerson College, fraternity members helped to raise funds for a transgender brother who needed assistance with transition costs. As these stories illustrate, fraternities are complex social organizations, and many are very invested in not just supporting their members, but giving back to the community.
Photo credit: Today.