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Mr. Whitman raises $48,000 for backpack meals program

Jeff Mathias, food bank director for Blue Mountain Action Council, accepts a check on behalf of his organization, accompanied by Lincoln High School intervention specialist Brooke Bouchey.
Jeff Mathias, food bank director for Blue Mountain Action Council, accepts a check on behalf of his organization and a pat on the back from Lincoln High School intervention specialist Brooke Bouchey.

The 16th annual Mr. Whitman pageant raised $48,306 for Blue Mountain Action Council's weekend backpack program. The money will help more than 300 Walla Walla elementary schoolchildren eligible for free and reduced lunches to receive weekly Backpack Bridge bags filled with two breakfasts, two lunches and two snacks on Fridays. Currently, 140 primary school students benefit from the project.

Emcees KC Cook '18 (left), a physics/pre-engineering major, and Rachael Haggen '18, a geology major, both members of Kappa Kappa Gamma, question contestant Court Osborn '18, a history major and Beta Theta Pi member.

The grand total of generosity was the second most ever in the history of Mr. Whitman, which is hosted by the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma. Last year, the pageant raised $50,594 for a new mental health professional position at The Health Center at Walla Walla's Lincoln High School.    

Contestant Ethan Gladhill '19, a biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology major and member of Sigma Chi, recites a poem he wrote for organizers Mariah Ng ’19 (center), a psychology major, and interdisciplinary major Mikaela Slade '19.

"I love to see the passion and the energy that students like myself put into the causes that they believe in," said Kappa Kappa Gamma's 2017 Philanthropy Chair and interdisciplinary major Mikaela Slade '19. "Mr. Whitman is one of my favorite aspects of Kappa because we are able to come together to raise funds for organizations that change lives."

Geology-environmental studies major Chaney Coman ’19 (center left) and Stella Martindale ’20 (second from right) staff the donation table during intermission.

Planning for Mr. Whitman began in March. In between then and the night of the festivities last Saturday, the six contestants raised money through bake sales, a Pho night sponsored by Soi 71 restaurant and a drag show, among others activities. The theme for the pageant was a road trip. Contestants danced, participated in a Q&A, modeled fashion and read poetry. 

From left: Bayard Blair '18 (interdisciplinary), Gary Ho '18 (economics), Ricardo Vivanco '18 (economics-mathematics), Osborn, Dan Lovato '18 (theatre) and Gladhill strike a pose after the fashion portion of the competition.

Bayard Blair '18, an interdisciplinary major and Phi Delta Theta member, and Court Osborn '18, a history major and Beta Theta Pi member, earned the crown of Mr. Whitman for raising the most money.  

Blair assembles a wooden chair on stage as his talent.

Dan Lovato '18, a theatre major and Tau Kappa Epsilon member, won the award for best talent—a new category this year—for a musical performance that incorporated drag, singing and reading his own writing. In an interview after, he recalled opening up an empty lunchbox at school on multiple occasions.    

Lovato performs in the talent portion of Mr. Whitman.

Biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology major and Sigma Chi member Ethan Gladhill '19 won the other new award this year: for passion and enthusiasm. He sold truffles and quesadillas-and shaved off half of the hair on his head for donations. Gladhill started soliciting donations during the summer before school had started.  

From left: Judges Mathias, Associate Dean of Students: Student Programs and Activities Barbara Maxwell, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies Suzanne Morrissey and Whitman President Kathleen Murrary reveal their scores for Vivanco's dance moves. Cook (left) and Haggen emcee.

"I have seen firsthand at my high school how important free lunches can be," he said. "Extending this food to weekends and breaks is a very tangible form of helping the community." 

Winners Blair and Osborn embrace as fellow contestants cheer.

Kappa Kappa Gamma members Rachael Haggen '18, a geology major, and KC Cook '18, a physics/pre-engineering major, emceed the gala, which they called a "celebratory culmination."

Published on Nov 10, 2017
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