Leaving ALS Better Than We Found It
A new partnership between Phi Delta Theta and The LiveLikeLou Foundation
By Steve Good, Vice President of Growth & Communications
As seen in the Winter 2018 Edition of The Scroll
If you ask any member of Phi Delta Theta across the world to rattle off a short list of their favorite Famous Phis, it’s almost a given that Lou Gehrig’s name will be mentioned. The association with Brother Gehrig is one that many Phis cherish. The pride in association does not stem from his status as one of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game or his celebrity status during his career. In fact, it stems from the type of man Lou Gehrig was—his character, his humility throughout his life, his legacy that was created as he battled disease.
Eighty years later, Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech remains one of the great memories in American sports history. In a moment in time when baseball was a positive outlet for so many affected by the Great Depression, Lou Gehrig shared the tragic news of his diagnosis in a way that caused generations to celebrate how lucky they were even if terrible news was delivered. Lou’s final years became a new genesis for the fight against Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a disease that now bears his name.
A few decades ago, the movement for fraternal organizations to name a cause of choice began. Philanthropy emerged as one of the most important aspects and benefits of membership in a fraternity or sorority, and today, it remains a source of pride in one’s affiliation. For Phi Delta Theta, linking its members with the fight against ALS was a natural fit. The connection to Lou Gehrig paved the way to integrate philanthropic efforts into the Fraternity’s operations.
Over the years, Phi Delta Theta’s efforts with the disease have intensified into a greater call to action for our members. Everything from partnerships and programs to events and awards have added to the greater purpose of Phi Delta Theta membership and the lasting impact membership can have on both an individual and the world as a whole. As the younger generation’s desire to be involved in philanthropic activities has increased, so has the need for the Fraternity to adapt its ALS-related purpose.
During the 2016–17 academic year, Phi Delta Theta’s undergraduates alone raised more than $1 million for philanthropic causes, with approximately 50% of those dollars being raised for ALS-related causes. The increasing amount being raised for philanthropic causes is incredible, but a desire to have a greater impact through a centralized charge has emerged.
Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity is proud to announce that it has taken a significant step to broaden its reach and deepen its impact on the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease. In early November, Phi Delta Theta announced the launch of The LiveLikeLou Foundation, a stand-alone 501c3 not-for-profit entity with a national scope.
The Alexander family at Mount Vernon on July 4, 2012; Neil was initiated into Phi Delta Theta at the 2012 Convention in Washington, D.C.
Neil and Suzanne Alexander established LiveLikeLou in 2011 when Neil, a University of Pittsburgh Phi Delt, was diagnosed with ALS. Originally established as a grassroots fund within The Pittsburgh Foundation, LiveLikeLou quickly became a leading entity in the fight against ALS in Western Pennsylvania, creating awareness of ALS, assisting families in the community, and fulfilling a $2.5 million pledge to build The LiveLikeLou Center for ALS Research, a $10 million partnership between LiveLikeLou and the University of Pittsburgh. The achievement became the largest ALS research effort of its kind in Western Pennsylvania history. Along with the success on the research front, LiveLikeLou also established a $1 million endowment for ongoing patient care in Western, Pennsylvania.
Because Brother Gehrig said, “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” when he retired from baseball on July 4, 1939, Brother Alexander was inspired and said, “I feel lucky too.” He used all of his energy, rallied his friends and family, and developed a personal mission to “Leave ALS Better Than He Found It.” Neil died from ALS in March 2015, leaving his wife, Suzanne and two children, Abby and Patrick, to carry on his vision.
Phi Delta Theta’s desire to further enhance and focus its commitment to the fight against ALS led the two entities to begin conversations. Together, Phi Delta Theta’s long-standing commitment to have a meaningful impact on the disease, coupled with LiveLikeLou’s successful model of advancing the ALS cause forward, have the ability to further drive Phi Delta Theta’s leadership in finding a cure.
“Neil always hoped LiveLikeLou would grow beyond the Pittsburgh Region. He would be so proud that Phi Delta Theta is stewarding this dream. Our family is thrilled that LiveLikeLou will be cared for, and have even more of an impact. It makes perfect sense that LiveLikeLou was started by a brother, in honor of a brother, and will be carried on by all the brothers of Phi Delta Theta,” says Director of The LiveLikeLou Foundation Suzanne Alexander.
The goal: Raise $4 million dollars for ALS in 1848 days
Phi Delta Theta will encourage all ALS-related philanthropic efforts by its members, chapters, colonies, and alumni clubs to support The LiveLikeLou Foundation, its mission, and the strategy it deploys to impact the fight against ALS. The LiveLikeLou Foundation will also build support from corporations and non-Phi Delt donors to expand its funding abilities.
The $4 million goal in 1848 has symbolic meaning to both the life of Lou Gehrig and Phi Delta Theta. Brother Gehrig wore the number four during his 16 years as a New York Yankee, and 1848 days (approximately five years) is symbolic of the Fraternity’s founding date.
Exploring opportunities to make a multi-year, multi-million dollar pledge to a leading ALS research center in the United States will be an initial focus, similar to what LiveLikeLou executed with the LiveLikeLou Center for ALS Research at the University of Pittsburgh. Patient care and support for families who have been affected by ALS will also play a role in the Foundation’s strategy.
Phis before the Iron Phi 5K at Kleberg
Phi Delta Theta’s Iron Phi program, an ALS-related program that has raised $1.4 million+ in seven years, will operate within the walls of The LiveLikeLou Foundation, and the dollars raised for ALS research through the program will be applied to The LiveLikeLou Foundation’s commitments to research initiatives.
“I was introduced to the Alexander family five years ago and have been inspired ever since by their unwavering commitment to leave ALS better than they found it. The LiveLikeLou Foundation will give Phi Delta Theta a national platform with centralized and very tangible funding goals. I look forward to the momentum that we create, but I’m most excited about being able to watch our members point at an ALS research center, a piece of leading technology, a world-class research project, or a family in need, and say, ‘That’s how I supported ALS,’” explains Steve Good, vice president of growth & communications, Phi Delta Theta and creator of the Iron Phi program.
The operations of The LiveLikeLou Foundation will revolve around three main functions:
- Fundraising Services: Cultivation and coaching of chapters, colonies, alumni clubs, individual alumni and corporations in their philanthropic and service pursuits that support the entity.
- Impact: Identification of partners within the ALS community and distribution of funds to research and care services to support them.
- Administration: Financial management, stewardship of funds, reporting, etc.
Suzanne Alexander will assume the role as the director of The LiveLikeLou Foundation and join Steve Good, vice president of growth and communications for Phi Delta Theta, to set up the board of directors, determine administrative processes, lead the search for research funding partners, and assist with individual, chapter, and alumni fundraising activities to support ALS.
“As someone who has had a personal relationship with ALS, I am very passionate about helping to ensure Phi Delta Theta assumes a leadership role to help discover the cause and a cure for the disease. My father was diagnosed and passed away from this horrific disease, and no other person or family should have to experience the loss of a loved one to ALS. I am excited about this new endeavor with The LiveLikeLou Foundation to fight ALS, because I’m confident that members of Phi Delta Theta will rise to the challenge and have an even greater impact,’” states Executive Vice President and CEO of Phi Delta Theta Bob Biggs.
“Never before has there been an effort that better epitomizes our open motto, “To enjoy life by the help and society of others.” The spirit, character, and affinity towards Lou Gehrig have long driven the Phi Delt Nation to support the battle against his namesake disease. We now look forward to channeling that energy to expand Brother Alexander’s vision while providing laser focus to eradicate ALS,” expresses Sean Wagner, chief operating officer of Phi Delta Theta.
Texas Kappa (UT, Arlington) Raising Money For ALS
The LiveLikeLou Foundation has a number of key priorities for the upcoming six months:
- Assemble The LiveLikeLou Foundation’s Board and determine priorities
- Create temporary fundraising mechanisms and establish administration structures in order to accept donations
- Establish funding targets to help guide cultivation efforts with potential ALS research entities
- Begin cultivation of ALS research funding opportunities and name partner(s) and commitment(s)
- Initiate educational efforts and fundraising coaching with Phi Delta Theta chapters, colonies and alumni clubs
- Develop fundraising technologies for supporters to utilize and re-launch the LiveLikeLou.org website
- Pinpoint marketing strategies to build The LiveLikeLou Foundation brand
- Create donor recognition programs to celebrate those who support The LiveLikeLou Foundation
For more information about The LiveLikeLou Foundation, visit livelikelou.org. Over the coming months, the website will be re-designed to reflect the new partnership with Phi Delta Theta and will provide online fundraising tools for supporters to utilize as they support The LiveLikeLou Foundation.
Those who wish to support The LiveLikeLou Foundation can send monies to:
The LiveLikeLou Foundation
2 South Campus Ave.
Oxford, OH 45056
All inquiries about The LiveLikeLou Foundation can be directed to Steve Good via email.