Above: Dawson Bell, Alpha chapter Pi Kappa Phi philanthropy chair, and Brian Grazzini, Alpha chapter Pi Kappa Phi vice president, celebrate the College’s chapter of Alpha Delta Pi as the winner of the fraternity’s War of the Roses philanthropy competition. (Photo by Gavin Peters)

 “Party” is the P word ending in Y most people associate with Greek life, but it really should be “philanthropy” – particularly when it comes to Pi Kappa Phi. It’s the only fraternity in the nation to have instituted and managed its own nonprofit, The Ability Experience (TAE), according to its website. Not only is it changing the way people think about fraternities; more importantly, it’s helping to change the way people think about those with disabilities.

Since Pi Kappa Phi founded The Ability Experience in 1977, fraternity brothers at the 180 chapters across the nation have raised more than $15 million to benefit people with disabilities and provide more service opportunities for the men of Pi Kappa Phi.

One of those chapters, of course, is right here at the College of Charleston, and for the second year in a row, the Alpha chapter of Pi Kappa Phi celebrated their fraternity’s philanthropy through a fun-filled, weeklong competition known as “War of the Roses” (WOTR). Besides Pi Kappa Phi’s official flower being a rose, the competition hardly has anything to do with actual roses.

war of roses pie a pi event

Chi Omega Philanthropy Director Mia DiSerafino after ‘pie-ing’ Pi Kappa Phi member Blake Silber.

Over a span of five days from March 26 to March 31, 2023, sorority women on campus competed in an assortment of field-day-like games to raise money for TAE. From a water-balloon toss to corn-hole competitions, hunting for roses or paying a few dollars to “Pie-a-Pi Kapp,” sorority members were encouraged to participate in as many events as possible in order to earn points for their chapters. The goal: whichever sorority raised the most money for TAE would be rewarded with 10% of the proceeds going toward their own philanthropy.

“I’m excited to hopefully win … and maybe pie a Pi Kapp,” said junior Belle Coffman, a Chi Omega executive board member, before the start of the week.

Two Pi Kappa Phi brothers, first-year student Rory Kyle and senior Will Waters, shared what WOTR means to them.

“It’s a week-long celebration of Greek life where all the organizations come together to raise money for a greater good and have fun along the way,” says Waters.

Adds Kyle: “[It’s] definitely inspirational to me. Seeing money raised and seeing the joy on their faces [and] just being able to have a good time really brought a lot of joy to me, and that just means the world.”

The fraternity was thankful to receive an abundance of discounted treats to sell during the event from Paula Pinkerton, aka, “Mom on Campus,” a CofC mother and lover of food who is known for selling baked goods to CofC students. Sabatinos New York Pizza also lent the men a helping hand, or a few large boxes of pizza, during their trivia night, which took place at the Pi Kapp house.

Pi Kappa Phi also partnered with Best Buddies, a club on campus, during their first competition at the start of the week. Founded in 1989, Best Buddies is a nonprofit where volunteers spend time and create opportunities to support those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Though Best Buddies isn’t the philanthropic organization for Pi Kapp, the fraternity frequently holds events with the club since supporting people with special needs is the fraternity’s ultimate goal.

“We always try to look for different ways [to support TAE], whether it’s financially or through volunteering,” says sophomore Dawson Bell, Pi Kappa Phi’s philanthropy chairman. “Through this special event, this is the one time that we’ve had the chance and the opportunity to do both.”

After a competitive five days, Alpha Delta Pi earned the most points and contributed the most towards the money raised, thereby making them the 2023 War of The Roses champions, followed by Sigma Kappa and Delta Gamma.

The real winners, of course, were people with disabilities.

ADPI was very dedicated to the cause, and I’m proud of my friends for raising so much money for The Ability Experience,” says ADPI sister, sophomore Emory Ibrahim, noting they also raised money for ADPI’s charity, Ronald McDonald House, in downtown Charleston. “We also volunteer at the house. We cook meals, donate items such as clothes and toiletries, make cards for the families and so much more. Philanthropy is one of the most important and worthwhile parts of being in a Greek life organization. 

All told, the Greek brothers and sisters raised $15,000 for The Ability Experience – making the CofC chapter No. 1 in the nation for donations.