Back in 1984, Greek Week service activities were arms-length affairs in which students donated food or money to charity. But they didn’t interact with the people they were serving. All that was about to change at the hands of Service Committee members Michael Basler, BSF ’85, a Sigma Chi; Mike Kateman, BS BA ’85, MA ’91, PhD ’17, a Beta Sigma Psi; and Susan Salzman, BJ ’85, a Chi Omega.
Basler had a connection to the Special Olympics, which was holding a regional track meet the Saturday of Greek Week. The trio proposed that Greek students would be paired with a Special Olympics athlete, attend the track meet and cheer on the competitors. The plan had its skeptics, and even Salzman wondered anxiously whether anyone would come. Everyone did.
Then the races started. One of the fraternity brothers stood near the finish line, rooting for his runner. After the race, the student ran onto the track, peeled off his Beta Theta Pi shirt and gave it to the runner. A ripple had started, and, by the end of the day, nearly every athlete was wearing a Greek-letter shirt or hat.