WRITTEN BY NICOLAS FERNANDES

The brothers of Tau Kappa Epsilon’s (TKE) Upsilon-Chi chapter at St. Francis College battled rain and strong winds over the weekend as they seesawed on Remsen Street for 50 hours to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The third annual Seesaw For a Chance fundraiser was bigger than ever, despite the harsh weather conditions. Chapter President Frank Armano was joined by TKE alumni and fraternities and sororities from St. Francis College as well as several other New York City colleges.

After debuting in 2014 as a TKE event, last year’s Chapter President David Datzkow expanded the fundraiser by getting the sisters of Zeta Gamma Delta involved — selling hot cocoa to participants to raise additional funds – and inviting fraternities from Brooklyn College.

Armano wanted to take the event to the next level this year and invited fraternities and sororities from several other colleges in the city including John Jay College of Criminal Justice, St. John’s University and College of Staten Island.

“This event is bigger than St. Francis could have ever thought of it,” Armano told SFC Today. “It’s a community event now.”

Visitors seesawed in front of the college between Friday and Sunday. The free activity was meant to symbolize childhood innocence in an urban setting and emphasize the fact that not everybody has the ability to jump on a seesaw.

“It’s about raising money for the kids and realizing that we don’t have it too bad,” Armano said. “Let’s dedicate 50 hours of our week out here and just do this for the kids who can’t.”

Funds were generated by optional donations that were collected for 50 hours as well as purchases of the $2 hot cocoa provided by Zeta Gamma Delta.

The brothers raised the most money at last year’s fundraiser and were optimistic about breaking that record before the weather set them back.

“We were able to raise over the weekend $15,000, which is our highest number yet for the event, so we’re hoping to shatter it this year,” Datzkow told SFC Today a few hours into the event on Friday.

The former Chapter President is now in his last semester at SFC and volunteers for the fraternity.

After pushing through a weekend of tents collapsing, benches flipping over and rain pouring down on the brothers, Armano does not expect to surpass last year’s amount.

“It literally rained on the brothers for hours while seesawing, but I’m happy because we persevered,” Armano told SFC Today.

The event commenced at 12 pm on Friday and the brothers didn’t stop seesawing until 3:30 pm on Sunday. The 38-man fraternity took turns while sleeping inside the college in between shifts.
The event is the SFC chapter’s unique version of hundreds of events within the international fraternity that raise money for the hospital each year.

Earlier this year, the fraternity pledged $2.6 million to St. Jude over six years, with each of the 247 chapters contributing a percentage. TKE chapters have already raised $550,000 of which St. Francis College was the sixth highest fundraising chapter, TKE Chief Information Officer Alex Baker said.

Before the pledge, the fraternity committed to $1 million over five years in 2011, but achieved its goal one year early, Baker said.

“If any guys want a true college experience, they need to rush TKE because this is what we do,” Armano said. “We’re the only fraternity that will do this on this campus.”

The fraternity has also partnered with the New York Mets. The brothers sold game tickets on September 24 and the Mets donated $7 to St. Jude for every ticket sold. In addition, the team suggested that Armano collaborate with them on a Greek fundraiser with 1,000 participants at Citi Field next year.

Armano plans to stay involved with the event as an alumnus and hopes that the succeeding chapter president continues to expand it.

“It’s no longer just a seesaw,” Armano said. “It’s becoming a block party and my dream and hope is that the next president catches on to the idea of what I have been pushing it to be and I want to shut down the block one day next year.”

The total amount raised is expected to be announced within two weeks.