Fraternity walks 160 miles for MS

GVL / Courtesy Tyler Dunham
ATO Walk

GVL / Courtesy Tyler Dunham ATO Walk

Rachel Huck

Originally published 2/16/15

Despite frigid wind chills, 20 of Grand Valley State University’s Alpha Tau Omega brothers will walk from GVSU’s Allendale Campus to Traverse City for their third annual Walk Hard fundraiser next week.

Tyler Dunham, president of ATO, said that Walk Hard is held in an effort to raise both money and awareness for The National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The 160-mile trek takes eight days to complete.

“We saw a need to have a stronger impact on the community around us and made it a goal to see ourselves make a positive change on members of our community,” Dunham said.

In order to ensure that all of the money donated through the walk goes directly to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, ATO makes it a priority to provide their own meals and sleep in churches along the way.

“We’ve pledged ourselves to ending MS,” Dunham said. “Every day, we see more people coming out of the woodwork that tell us they have MS, and it helps us realize how great our impact on friends, family and strangers around us truly is.

“Introduced in 2008, ATO was the first GVSU fraternity that emphasizes Christian values rather than Greek ones,” Dunham said. “As a result, ATO focuses on serving as a positive influence for the campus community.”

“We walk for those who can’t,” Dunham said. “We’re willing to go to great lengths to do whatever we can to join the fight.”

As ATO reaches out to get more individuals involved in the fundraiser, donations have increased from $15,000 the first year to $31,000 the second year.

This year, the brothers’ goal is to raise $35,000. Dunham said ATO currently has about 75 percent of its goal.

“We believe that if more people are aware of the effects that the disease can have and why it needs to be stopped, we can really start to work to prevent and completely end it,” said Jonathan Erickson, chair of public relations for Walk Hard.

Last year, ATO started MS Awareness Week, and are eager to keep it going during this year’s fundraising. Erickson said the awareness week has become a key part of the event.

“Greek life and other student organizations have been some of our biggest supporters by helping us raise money and support during our awareness week, which occurs the week before the actual walk kick-off,” Erickson said.

In addition, ATO has begun to consider how to incorporate others into the walk in upcoming years.

“We’ve had many individuals express interest in walking for part of the trip, and that’s definitely something we’re working toward in future walks,” Erickson said. “Their support truly means the world to us and those afflicted by MS, and they really do make a difference when it comes to ending this disease.”

Jacob Devine, ATO philanthropy chairman, said that Walk Hard hopes to get more people involved in the cause this year by allowing anyone to join ATO for the first portion of their walk.

“(They) can start the walk with us and walk through campus to take a picture under the arch at the Grand Valley entrance,” Devine said.

ATO will depart from the Kirkhof Center on Feb. 26 at 10 a.m.

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