Whitman’s chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma aims to fund education for 156 AIDS orphans

Most “beauty” pageant contenders are all about the glamour, but for the eight candidates vying for the honor to be “Mr. Whitman” on Friday, Nov. 14, it’s all about the kids — in this case, 156 Ugandan children who have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic there.

The irony of eight senior men (four Greek, four Independent) participating in talent (Guitar Hero and Mario gaming has been offered in the past), question and answer, swim wear (complete with wet suit and snorkel last year) and formal wear categories is not lost on the participants. “As far as I know, I don’t have any talents,” said David Ogle ’09, president of Beta Theta Pi and Beta contestant. As a matter of fact, he said, getting up and performing on stage is not something he would normally do. “But I definitely believe in the cause…It’s a silly event with a purpose and that makes it more fun.”

The women of Kappa Kappa Gamma have sponsored the contest for the past seven years to fund their philanthropy project. Philanthropy is an important element of Greek life at Whitman that is sometimes overlooked by those outside the Greek System, but for Maryn Juergens, Kappa philanthropy chair, “I feel it’s the coolest part of being in the sorority.”

Juergens, who has coordinated the Mr. Whitman event for the past two years, started marshalling her troops this summer to make sure she had a full crop of contestants. “A huge thing is the willingness to fundraise, because tickets aren’t the biggest money maker. It’s the guys fundraising.” So, the willingness to go out and ask for money is important, but they should also be funny and well-liked. --It is a contest, after all.

“I look for just the right combination of brains and beauty,” said Melissa Clearfield, associate professor of psychology and one of four faculty judges for the event. “Isn’t that what beauty pageants are all about?”

Yes, and this one has a fairly significant goal: $15,000. That’s how much it will cost to pay two years of educational expenses for the children of Lake Nukuruba Orphanage Project. Currently, Juergens said, the pastor and wife who run the orphanage must choose between medical treatment and education for the children.

Juergens acknowledges that the current economic situation does not naturally lend itself to fund-raising activities, but she remains optimistic. Last year the contest raised $10,000; and the year before $6,000. So, the show will go on: 7 p.m. in Cordiner Hall. The Whitman Dance Team and Sirens of Swank also will perform.

Tickets are $5 in advance or $8 at the door. Juergens says those interested are more than welcome to donate to any of the pageant contenders or to the Kappa’s philanthropy fund; it all will go to the orphanage. Juergens can be contacted at juergemk@whitman.edu for information or to make a donation.

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CONTACT: Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 527-5156
parishlj@whitman.edu