We all know the infamous saying, only the good die young, and we all have experienced a hole in our heart made by the loss of one too soon. But there is nothing that can alleviate the pain and sorrow more than the love and support from a close-knit community – and that is what Willow Manning, a junior here at Marist College, has found through her Alpha Sigma Tau sorority sisters.
On February 14th, 2014, Drew O’Donoghue, Willow’s first cousin, lost his hard fought battle to cancer. Drew was diagnosed just a year before with adrenocortical cancer, an extremely rare and aggressive form of cancer that impacts around 1,000 people per year in the United States. “Gosh, how can I even find words to speak about such an incredible human being,” begins Manning, “He was so talented – so smart – he loved basketball, he played the piano, he even composed music. It seemed like there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.” Drew was a senior at the prestigious Villanova University, double majoring in accounting and finance and minoring in Chinese when he passed away. His family was so honored and proud to receive his diploma for him at his graduation, where he received the honor of Magna Cum Laude. But Drew’s journey did not end there. Drew’s family continued his legacy through starting the Drew O’ Donoghue Fund to raise money and support the fight against adrenal cancer.
Throughout the nation, many people have a negative image of what Greek life is all about. Some believe everyone gets hazed, they believe it is all about developing a partying problem in college, and even worse assumptions are made. But I, and the many others in the strong community of Greek life at Marist College, beg to differ. As I reflect on my Greek life experience, I truly believe Alpha Sigma Tau at Marist is the jewel of the Hudson River Valley. We are a group of strong, passionate women who come together with the common interests of forming everlasting bonds, raising each other up, and contributing to incredible philanthropic causes. With this in mind, Willow believed she could use the Greek life platform as the perfect opportunity to help with her cousin’s foundation. Once Willow brought her idea to AST, we collectively brainstormed for the best way possible to get all of Marist Greek life to contribute to such a powerful mission.
Together, we decided to create a flag football event to raise money in order to help the fight against adrenal cancer. With the participation and donations from Alpha Sigma Tau, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Theta Delta Chi, and Kappa Sigma we raised close to $500 for the Drew O’Donoghue Fund! It was an amazing event where we not only raised money for a good cause, but also had so much fun taking a break from studying and getting some friendly competitive games going! “Going to the event… I felt so proud – more proud than I ever have been to be part of something so big. Alpha Sigma Tau is my second family, my home away from home, my happy place. I was almost emotional honestly. Of course when you go to college you will make friends, guaranteed. But it is rare that one finds a large group of people to stand beside you and support you with matters that are so close to the heart. I hate to sound all cheesy, but I am honestly speaking from the heart,” says Willow.
Greek life is so extraordinary – finding a sisterhood or brotherhood filled with positive energy and remarkable goals really does contribute to achieving an amazing college experience. Willow shared some powerful words for prospective students considering joining Greek life, “Oh – it’s a must. Do it! Join! Be a part of something incredible that ties you to the best people you will ever meet! The whole saying about ‘college being the best four years of your life’ definitely came to fruition when I joined Alpha Sigma Tau, and I am sure that members of other Greek organizations on campus feel the same way. You know, it was horrible for my family and I when we were faced with Drew’s death. But with the help of my sisters, they led me to find the light in the darkness of Drew’s circumstance – and for that, I am forever grateful.”
For more information about the Drew O’Donoghue Fund and how you can help the fight against adrenal cancer, please visit www.thedrewodonoghuefund.org