ATO and Stillwater Area YMCA teaming up for greatness

by Nikki West

Across the nation, fraternities at American colleges are making headlines for all the wrong reasons, from drinking to hazing, from racism to sexual harassment. However, in Stillwater, one Greek fraternity that is making a difference is Alpha Tau Omega. Put aside all your misconceptions about Greek life and fraternities, and look at the wonderful work ATO is doing for Stillwater’s youth and community. I got a chance to speak with Alpha Tau Omega president, Mick Jones, about the community service and good ATO is doing for Stillwater.

ATO is the national leadership development fraternity. They were founded on Christian principles which makes them unique among fraternities. The founders of ATO created the fraternity to unite the North and the South after the Civil War.

Oklahoma State’s ATO chapter chose Stillwater Family YMCA as their local philanthropy. ATO has been working with the YMCA for the past three years, and they chose the YMCA in Stillwater because they wanted to be able to see the impact on the YMCA and the community firsthand, fixing issues at the building and buying better equipment for kids.

“It’s just extremely fulfilling to get to see that and it makes them want to work that much harder to help the Y,” said Jones.

Alpha Tau Omega implements two annual philanthropy events that directly benefit the YMCA: Pomp4Purpose and GATOrfest.

Pomp4Purpose is when people donate $1 per piece of tissue paper and are show how to pomp. (Pomping is the process of putting tissue paper in chicken wire. This is what happens all semester long to build House Decorations that everyone looks at during Walkarounds.) Alumni can come back and pomp to relive their time as an undergrad while kids get to experience what all ATO does while preparing for Homecoming. Last year, they raised around $400 with this event. While not a huge money maker for the YMCA, it’s a great advocacy activity to share the mission and activities of ATO with future generations.

GATOrfest has been occurring for three years and have been able to grow this immensely over the past few years. GATOrfest is a three day event. The first day is the field day where sororities put together teams to compete in a multitude of events. Last year, the competition was held in the YMCA gym. The sororities compete in a relay race, tug of war and a dodgeball tournament. Entry fees for the field day go towards our donation to the YMCA. The next day is the main event, the GATOrfest Concert. ATO sells tickets and has a giant cookout on their lawn where we have hamburgers, hot dogs and gator meat. While the cookout is going on, a concert is held on the fraternity’s lawn. Last year, there was four acts, featuring local talent from the Greek community. GATOrfest raised $12,579.00 this past year.

As you can clearly see, ATO is doing great things in our community, and are focused on service and outreach. So what does ATO have planned for their and the YMCA’s future relationship? They are currently revamping how they do GATOrfest. While in early planning stages, Jones revealed that the goal is to turn GATOrfest into a block party. ATO is teaming up with two other houses on campus to help plan this massive event. It will take GATOrfest from a three day event to a one day event. The main goal is to get the community of Stillwater more involved. ATO wants to block off part of the street and have a giant concert. They are in the process of booking some popular, family-friendly talent for the show.

ATO will sell wristbands to get into the concert and hope to have Pistol Pete and the Spirit Squad in attendance. ATO plans on having local food trucks set up in the area as well. Lastly, the YMCA will set up games on the lawn for kids so parents with young children can watch the concert and know their kids are having an enjoyable time as well.

“I think this event could be one of the largest events on campus in the next five years,” said Jones. “ I hope to continue to strengthen our relationship with the YMCA in the future and be available for anything they need. We’re excited to see what the future holds!”