This piece was originally submitted for publication in the Quill, a national Alpha Xi magazine.
Sometimes we get caught up in the all the wonderful aspects of sisterhood, and forget about the other things that go along with being a part of something as wonderful as Alpha Xi Delta. For many sisters in the Theta Phi chapter, our philanthropy Autism Speaks is held close to their hearts. A number of them has siblings or friends with autism, and having that connection has brought our chapter as a whole closer to the cause. Aside from exceeding our philanthropy goal in the past year, the chapter tried to make personal ties with the people we would be supporting. The local philanthropy, Mitchell’s Place, has worked with us to promote a sense of community.
The chapter wanted to give children with autism in the Birmingham area a place to be themselves, where they could stim without the reproachful attitudes of the allistic. Sisters partnered with Mitchell’s Place and the local kid-friendly McWane Science Center to provide a friendly and accommodating evening for the children and their families. The McWane Center was the perfect place to hold the event: picture hands-on games, jungle gyms, and fish (yes, there is an aquatic section where you can pet sharks and rays). Since our event was being held after-hours, we were able to keep the lights dim and the noise to a minimum in order to cater towards the more sensitive autistic children.
This event was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had through Alpha Xi Delta. I was able to talk to parents about their experiences with raising an autistic child and how events like ours were helpful in that they could let their children run free without having to worry about the judgement of others. The environment was welcoming, and I had the chance to interact with the older children and learn about the wide spectrum of autism that, as someone relatively unexposed to it, was eye-opening. The experience of putting faces to the people we were helping through our philanthropy benefitted me in so many ways. But more importantly, instead of just shipping money off to a distant organization, our entire chapter was able to provide a service to people who really wanted it. This event gave me insight to our philanthropy in ways I had not even considered before, and I would recommend it to all other chapters of Alpha Xi Delta.