By Sean Grim ’14
Patti Mortiati was diagnosed with breast cancer in February. Alone and uninsured, she reached out to St. Vincent’s Medical Center for help. The charity paid for her entire treatment.
In homage to the endurance and courage of Patti and her fellow survivors, six Brothers of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity participated in the 26th annual SWIM Across the Sound, the marquee fundraiser of St. Vincent’s Medical Center.
This summer, James Benson ’14, Matthew Iassogna ’14, Joshua Hitchings ’14, Steve Schappert ’14, Evan Newbold ’15, and Nathan Witmer ’15 swam a 25-km (16-mile) relay across the Long Island Sound, winning their division with a record time of 8:15:20. The race begins in Port Jefferson, Long Island, and finishes in Captain’s Cove, Conn. Swimmers are assisted in their grueling race by a guide boat that follows at a distance, carrying the remainder of the team. Each competitor swam several 20- to 30-minute legs, switching out with their brothers on the boat.
Team Phi Psi was well prepared for this test of endurance, as all but Benson are members of the Lafayette swimming and diving team. Hitchings and Newbold hold the school record for the 200 medley relay, along with teammates Greg Grewal ’16 and Robert Lowery ‘16. The men’s team elected Hitchings captain last semester, and he will lead his teammates when they open the season against Seton Hall tomorrow.
Benson, chapter president of Phi Kappa Psi, led the fundraising efforts leading up to the SWIM. The entire fraternity participated, raising more than $7,000.
Phi Psi’s donation goes directly to patients like Patti, funding St. Vincent’s mission to “Turn the Tide Against Cancer.” St. Vincent’s cares for cancer patients through a network of financial and emotional support programs. In Patti’s case, the center funded her treatment in its entirety, as well as financing gift cards to the grocery store. For the teenage son of Regina DeMartin, whose cancer treatment requires complete quarantine, St. Vincent’s finances a cell phone, so that he can continue socializing with his friends. His mother, featured on a SWIM “Making a Difference” video, was reduced to tears speaking about this simple gift, which she claimed “has given him back his life.”
“All of our families have been affected by cancer and seeing [DeMartin’s] story made us want to do even more,” says Iassogna. “We hoped to fulfill Phi Psi’s motto of ‘The Great Joy of Serving Others’ by using our talents to give back.”
The SWIM Across the Sound is one of the many philanthropic outlets of Phi Kappa Psi. The fraternity partners with the Boys & Girls Club of America to serve underprivileged youth. In addition to the brothers’ direct involvement with the organization, such as a weekly basketball clinic, Phi Psi donates all proceeds from philanthropy events to the club. In 2012-13, the fraternity raised more than $1,200 for the Boys & Girls Club.
Earlier this year, the National Council of Phi Kappa Psi recognized Lafayette’s chapter (Pennsylvania Theta) as one of the top five chapters in the country, due in large part to its philanthropic efforts. Last year, the Brothers of Phi Psi volunteered for more than 1,200 hours in the Easton community.