Mizzou fraternity ‘rocks’ to raise money for cancer research

Rocker Lenny Goldman (center), surrounded by his fellow AEPi seniors, completes 63 consecutive hours of rocking at the 2011 Rock-A-Thon. The 2013 Rock-A-thon is planned for April 25-27. Photo: Ben Stein

By Barbara Bayer Editor, Kansas City Jewish Chronicle

Things are rockin’ for the University of Missouri’s Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity in more ways than one. The chapter is the largest it has been in years and its members are doing well academically. On top of that, the brothers are hoping the fraternity’s biennial philanthropy event to raise money for the fight against cancer, scheduled later this month, is the biggest and best ever.

AEPi’s Rock-A-Thon begins at 7 am. Thursday, April 25, and concludes at 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 27. During that time senior Brendan Lyss of St. Louis will rock for 63 consecutive hours in a chair located on a stage in downtown Columbia, Mo.

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The 2011 event raised $80,000. AEPi president Zach Mallin said the fraternity hopes to top $100,000 this year.

“It’s the largest single philanthropy event held by one chapter in the Greek community in the entire country,” noted senior Alex Silverman, the event’s public relations chairman.

While Lyss rocks, AEPi members will solicit donations in Columbia, the surrounding mid-Missouri area and, for the first time, travel to both Kansas City and St. Louis.

“That’s how we bring in the bulk of our revenue,” said Silverman, a senior from Long Island, N.Y.

Support for the event is also garnered through both corporate sponsorships and personal donations.

The Rock-A-Thon began more than 40 years ago in 1969. According to co-chairmen Andrew Weil of Eagan, Minn., and Galen Hoft from St. Louis, it gives the “brothers a chance to connect with the worldwide push to eradicate cancer.”

“This year, this connection is even stronger as 2013 is not only the centennial celebration for AEPi as a whole, but it’s also the centennial for the American Cancer Society,” they note in the Rock-A-Thon newsletter.

Silverman explained that the event always supports the American Cancer Society, but each time it takes place it targets a different type of cancer.

“We try to pick one particular type of cancer to raise awareness about each time. This year we are focused on lung cancer. In 2011 we worked to fight leukemia,” Silverman said. “Lung cancer is the most deadly form of cancer in the United States.”

Being chosen as the rocker is considered the chapter’s highest honor. Lyss said cancer is something that has surrounded him his entire life. His father and brother are both cancer survivors. His father is also an oncologist.

“I feel like everyone has their experience and their connection with cancer and that’s why this is such an important thing for us to be doing. It’s an incredible honor to be chosen this year’s rocker,” Lyss said.

Two things have been added to Rock-A-Thon 2013. The first is the “Who Do You Rock For?” campaign. This program gives donors a chance to honor friends and loved ones personally affected by cancer, as well as those in their support systems. To take part, submit the name(s) on the donation form of the people who you rock for. Once the name submissions are received, brothers will complete a handwritten “Who Do You Rock For?” card, which will be displayed at the Rock-A-thon stage.

The newest activity of the event is AEPi’s inaugural Rock-A-Thon Golf Classic. It will take place Saturday, April 20, at the Forest Park Golf Course in St. Louis. 

The continued success of Rock-A-Thon can be attributed in part to the growth the fraternity has experienced over the past few years. When he was a freshman in 2009, Silverman points out the fraternity had about 60 members. The chapter has more than doubled in size since then, now boasting 130 members.

Mallin said this year has been a very impressive one for the chapter. It won first place in Mizzou’s 2012 Homecoming — a competition that includes a variety of components such as community service, house decorations, building a float for the parade and writing and performing a skit. 

Silverman encourages those in the Columbia area to stop by the Rock-A-Thon during the 63-hour marathon.

“The last few hours are always a big spectacle. Everyone gathers around the stage trying to can (raise money) for last-minute donations. There’ll be music. It’s a pretty big scene and a good amount of spectators come to see it all,” he said. 

For more information regarding any of these events, or to make a donation, visit www.rockathonaepi.com.

Reprinted with permission from the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle.