Cancer diagnoses spark Greek unity

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Story by Lindsey Coleman, Staff writer

The Murray State chapters of Alpha Gamma Delta (AGD) and Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) have teamed up to raise money for their sisters with cancer by selling bracelets.

Grace Ritchie, junior form Bardstown, Kentucky and member of AOII, was diagnosed with stage one Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on April 29.

Alex Arnett, freshman from Murray and member of AGD, was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on Sept. 14.

Rachel Ross, senior from Murray and member of AGD, said different greek letters don’t matter when you’re trying to support sisters who are going through such a life-altering time.

“When we found out that Alex was diagnosed, honestly I immediately thought of how crazy it was that AOII had somebody diagnosed with the same disease, so when Alex was diagnosed, it was important to not forget Ritchie was fighting this too,” Ross said.

In the Curris Center on Oct. 12 and 13, AGD and AOII sold rubber bracelets for a minimum donation of $3, Ross said.

“The bracelets are a reminder for us,” Ross said. “They’re a way to band together to show everybody that it’s not just ‘support Alex,’ it’s not just ‘support Grace,’ it’s ‘support two women that are fighting the same disease.’”

Emily Cook, sophomore from Lexington, is a member of AGD and Arnett’s sis-mom.

“We just all want to be that support system for her, and give her the support and love she needs,” Cook said.

The bracelet campaign isn’t the only way AOII has supported Ritchie.

Rachel Solomon, junior from Benton, Kentucky and member of AOII, was the coordinator of a powderpuff football tournament on Sept. 13 to raise money for Ritchie.

“We all just kind of felt like we needed to do something to get other people involved, because so many people want to help any way they can,” Solomon said, “When you find out that another Greek person has gotten diagnosed with something, they want to help.”

She said that by collecting entry fees for the tournament, selling t-shirts, selling baked goods and collecting donations, they raised over $3,700.

She said they even got to Facetime Ritchie during the event.

“We did this event just so other people could come, show their support and help out in any way. It was a community event, not just for AOII, but for everyone.”

Solomon said the money will go toward Ritchie’s PET scans and to charities that Ritchie wants to donate to in her name.

Becca Whitman, junior from Louisville and member of AOII, had nothing but support for Ritchie.

She said that by being in the same pledge class, she had gotten to know Ritchie well.

“She’s not just an AOII, she was also an RA in Clark, she’s also just a Murray State student trying to get her degree, she’s very friendly to everyone, a lot of people know her,” Witman said. “We’re just here for her for anything she needs.”

Ritchie said that April 29, the day she was diagnosed, is a day she’ll never forget. She said it was the beginning of the hardest thing she’s ever had to go through.

“Not only has it been extremely difficult on me, but it has also been very hard on my family and friends,” Ritchie said, “ I don’t know what is harder, actually experiencing the pain from the chemotherapy and medication, or watching your loved ones sit by in pain because they are hurting for you.”

Although her chemotherapy was very aggressive, invasive and damaging, Ritchie said she is very thankful to be alive.

“These last six months of my life have been so difficult, but because of the support of my AOII sisters, I have survived,” Ritchie said, “The amount of love they have shown me is something I will forever be grateful for.”

She said her sisters have never made her feel like she is fighting this battle alone, and she said the support of other fraternities and sororities at the powderpuff tournament meant so much to her.

Along with powderpuff and the bracelets, Ritchie said another member of Alpha Delta Pi created “GRACEfully Fighting” buttons to raise money in support of her fight.

“Not only has AOII allowed for so many lifelong friendships, but it has taught me how to be a leader, how to be strong, and how to never give up,” Ritchie said, “Even if there are times where I do feel like giving up, I am reminded of the 150 plus sisters that I have standing there right beside me, pushing me to continue on.”

Lindsay Crafton, sophomore from Bragg City, Missouri, said Greek unity had been prevalent.

“We’ve all seen how everyone has kind of pulled together,” Crafton said.

Crafton said AGD and AOII will split the cost of bracelets to honor Ritchie and Arnett, and Arnett’s portion will go towards making her a wig.

She said she was the family weekend planner for AGD this semester, and at the event, there was a card for Arnett that families and sisters could sign if they wanted to.

Crafton said they raised $300 in donations for Arnett that day.

“It was awesome to see how grateful she was and how high-spirited she was,” Crafton said.

Crafton said she got to know Arnett’s sweet and genuine personality at recruitment this semester.

She said AGD has also been prayerfully showing their support for Arnett as well.

“It is cool just because there is so much Greek unity. When anything happens between fraternities and sororities, we’ll go out of our way to help others if it means good things can come from it,” Crafton said.