ATO fraternity preps for annual MS awareness walk
It’s around the time where the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity members gather up their finest walking gear to prepare for their annual 160-mile walk for multiple sclerosis, called “ATO Walks Hard.” This is the sixth year the brothers will participate in the fundraiser.
The fraternity brothers donate the money entirely to the Michigan chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Instead of heading down to Florida or going on a getaway vacation to Mexico, these men dedicate their spring break to walk for a cause that hits home for them. Matt Bertoia, philanthropy chair of ATO, said the brothers really get to know each other during this time.
For the fraternity brothers, the walk is not an easy task. They head up to Traverse City to begin their long journey on Friday, March 2, for a total of eight days of walking until Saturday, March 10, when they end up at the Cook Carillon Tower by the Kirkhof Center.
Battling Michigan winters, blisters and sore muscles, the men continue to walk 20 miles a day to complete their challenge. During the walk, the brothers get a chance to bond with one another while listening to music and sharing an experience of a lifetime.
“People with MS go through a lot more pain than we experience during the walk,” said Sam Weideman, president of ATO, who had 19 blisters on each foot during last year’s walk.
Weideman feels personally connected to this philanthropy because he has been closely connected to people who battle MS and has even lost family members due to the disease. Weideman said their philanthropy was one of the biggest reasons he joined the chapter.
In the last five years, the brothers have raised over $170,000. Just last year, they totaled a whopping $54,000. This year, they hope to raise $55,000, and they’ve already received over $25,000. They hope to secure $10,000 worth of donations from businesses.
“We have become the second largest donor for the MS Society in the state of Michigan,” Bertoia said.
Despite a major size difference, GVSU’s ATO chapter has raised enough money each year to keep up with Division I schools such as the University of Florida and the University of Oklahoma. The other chapters have around 180 members, while GVSU’s chapter has 80.
The brothers take pride in what they do and continue to pursue this fundraiser in the hopes of ending multiple sclerosis entirely. In five years, the brothers have been reported on by 12 different news sources on the event.
Next week, the fraternity brothers will have their annual MS Awareness Week where they will be hosting several events to raise awareness of the disease. For example, GVSU students will have a chance to pie an ATO member for $1, and all donations will go toward the fundraiser.
Besides raising money, the brothers use this opportunity to connect with the community and each other. The brothers wish to continue to amplify the event and make it known that this is what they work so hard for.
For more information on the cause, or to donate, go to ATO’s website at www.atowalkshard.com. All donations are accepted.