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Florida Int. Univ. PIKE Fraternity Named USTA Florida Volunteer of the Month

October 22, 2009 07:00 PM
The men of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity (PIKE) at Florida International University each year strive to lead in the community volunteer arena, especially in the Miami area surrounding the FIU campus. Located just down the street from the Tamiami Tennis Center, the PIKE men in 2009 have been active in assisting players training for the Special Olympics, among other local tennis-related activities.

"We have participated in numerous Special Olympics events and tennis training sessions organized through USTA Florida," said Shaun Johnston, community services chair for the FIU chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha. "We began our relationship with assisting USTA Florida earlier this year at the Tamiami Tennis Center, located adjacent to FIU, to assist special-needs children in their efforts to train for the tennis portion of the South Florida Special Olympics. Our efforts expanded to bringing 30 men to work alongside these children during the Special Olympics held at Miami-Dade College."

The model slogan for the men of PIKE is SLAG ("Scholars, Leaders, Athletes, and most importantly, Gentlemen at all times"). Special Olympics organizers at the Tamiami Tennis Center say the PIKE men in their volunteerism quell the mass media "Animal House" reputation of fraternities, instead defining "service organization."

"Not knowing what to expect when a fraternity volunteers to help you with Special Olympics athletes, I have to say I was never more surprised by a finer group of young men," said USTA Florida Tennis Program Coordinator for Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, Cathy Nordlund. "This group of men were so patient and giving to all the children. Not knowing how to play tennis did not stop them from assisting the tennis pros and lending their support. They now are the first that I call any time I need help with an event." 

Johnston says that in addition to PIKE venturing into volunteering with USTA Florida for the first time in 2009, tennis volunteering is just another leg in their large body of volunteer work throughout Miami.

"At FIU we lead not only on campus but off campus as well," Johnston said. "Around the city of Miami we are known for our blood drives, and fundraising abilities for organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.), The American Diabetes Association, and our newly-acquired philanthropy, the Make-A-Wish Foundation. We are very successful at fundraising for these various philanthropies, and the Pikes at FIU have a true passion in helping out in our community."

The PIKE men also volunteered when the Tamiami Tennis Center held its annual USTA Florida Tennis Block Party to showcase area adult and junior league offerings, and the QuickStart Tennis format for 10-and-under children.

"When Chris Grullon first came to me with the idea of helping with the Special Olympics, I'm not going to lie, but I was a little nervous as to how the other men would react to the event, given the time was early in the morning on Saturdays," said PIKE Vice-President (Internal) Ricky Alfonso. "But I had faith that they would come through. They honestly blew my expectations out of the water. The first event we worked, we showed up with about 12 brothers and each of us had no idea what to expect. All of us were a little nervous and excited at the same time. As the day progressed all of us became a little attached to our particular athletes but we all felt good in knowing that we helped them accomplish their goal of the day. Some athletes were racing to prove they could, others were competing to show their parents what they were capable of doing. That day for us was extremely humbling and I know that we will be one of the first people to sign up for the Special Olympics this coming spring."

USTA Florida congratulates the Kappa Gamma Chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity for its 15-year anniversary at Florida International University, and on its contributions to the local Miami tennis community which earn it the distinction of 2009 USTA Florida October Volunteer of the Month.

"As current president and having now been involved with PIKE for over four years, it makes me proud to see all of my brothers take such a prominent role in caring for others before themselves," said PIKE President Alex Valdes. "But it makes me prouder to see all of the participants compete and for us to help them succeed. I would like to thank USTA Florida for giving us this honor, but the real prize is spending those hours making a difference in those kids' lives."






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