Alpha Omicron Pi hosts annual spaghetti dinner

GVL / Courtesy - AOII

GVL / Courtesy – AOII

Riley Collins

For decades, spaghetti has brought together people from all walks of life in different parts of the world. Grand Valley State University’s Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) sorority has also been using the classic dish to gather campus around a local cause.

AOII will host their annual Spaghetti Dinner fundraising event Monday, Feb. 27, which benefits the Grand Rapids group, IKUS, which now encompasses the Indian Trails Camp. The event will include unlimited spaghetti, breadsticks and salad, as well as a variety of games and a raffle.

Tickets are $5 from an AOII sister or $6 at the door.

Anyone is welcome to attend and in years past, attendance has been high, rain or shine. Nikki Bell, philanthropy chair of AOII, said that the dinner is fun for participants to enjoy with friends, family and anyone in the GVSU community while supporting a great cause.

For Bell, the purpose of the spaghetti dinner aligns with her goals as a psychology major who hopes to become an occupational therapist.

“I personally love the cause,” Bell said. “This is something I want to do in my life — helping people and those who have disabilities.”

IKUS provides services that empower individuals with disabilities. For decades, AOII has hosted the annual spaghetti dinner, donating the proceeds to IKUS to support the camps and other services.

During last year’s dinner, the group raised $1,700 in donations. For 2016, they are looking to hit $2,000.

For Bell, keeping camps like Indian Trails alive is essential for campers who do not normally experience camp activities such as nature studies and campfire cooking at other times during the year. The team-building exercises and energy outlets at the Indian Trails Camp connects campers with one another and the nature surrounding them.

“It’s just really nice that we can help out and get them more things that can help benefit the camp to make it greater and greater each year,” Bell said.

AOII also volunteers at IKUS to make Thanksgiving dinners for campers and to set up groups of games. The sisters also work on renovating and cleaning IKUS facilities.

Structured on a foundation of local philanthropy, AOII works with a multitude of fundraising and volunteering events including the “Strike out Arthritis” barbecue and tailgate, and the arthritis foundation walk in Grand Rapids and Detroit.

Though Bell and some other sisters never imagined themselves being a part of Greek life at all, Bell said events like this helped them make connections with the campus community.

“Being surrounded by my sisters, it sounds cliché, they’ve really helped me become a better person,” said Catie Bounds, vice president of Communications at AOII. “I never really saw myself taking a leadership position at all. Why would I spend my time on that, you know?” 

However, she said becoming involved with activities like spending Halloween with the Indian Trails Camp and making genuine connections with her sisters allow her to feel at home, away from home.

In addition, Bounds said she realized how much she can impact the community and how important this is with AOII.

“It’s local, it’s not national where you don’t feel like you’re making a difference,” she said. “When you help out so close to home, you can really see the difference and the reaction from the kids and people participating.”

Bounds and Bell have mirrored their own experiences in building communities by helping to strengthen existing communities at IKUS. In the end, they said those experiences have made a world of difference in their lives.