Bryant University Derby Days Closing Celebration
Bryant's Derby Days fundraiser collected $228,000 to benefit the Huntsman Cancer Institute, shattering the previous record of $153,814.
Derby Days raises $232,600 for cancer treatment and research
Apr 30, 2024, by Stephen Kostrzewa

The crowd is four people deep in the Rotunda as the assembled students watch a member of the university’s chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity continuously refresh the results of the week-long Derby Days fundraising drive, held annually in support of cancer research and patient care, on the big screen.

Though there’s still a day left, they are zeroing in on their target goal of $160,000 — nearly $7,000 more than last year’s record-breaking total of $153,824. Small whoops go out as the number rises incrementally, mixed in with good-natured boos when it remains stagnant.

When the total finally crosses the $160,000 mark, the group goes wild, letting loose a roar that can be heard throughout the entire Unistructure building.

But even with their goal met, the dedicated students aren’t done yet, not by a longshot.

“Let’s go,” yells Sigma Chi member Braeden Macneil ’24, louder still than all of the cheers around him. “Next stop, $200,000!” Yet even he, in his optimism and faith in his community, underestimates the generosity around him.

A little more than 24 hours later, Derby Days chair Brandon Kestenbaum’ 24 announces at the closing ceremonies that the fundraiser has raised a staggering grand total of $232,600 in support of the Huntsman Cancer Institute — buoyed by the more than 430 Bryant students and other members of the university community who took part. With this total, Bryant was second in North America for fundraising out of all of the Sigma Chi chapters that participate in Derby Days.

“I don’t think I ever could have imagined this,” Kestenbaum admits. “We didn’t just hit our goal this year, we crushed it. 

"Every year the community finds a way to top itself."

“Bryant is a small school, but we’re able to make a big impact.”

Organized by the Sigma Chi fraternity as part of a nationwide effort, the drive has collected more than $600,000 at Bryant over the years and become a signature event on campus. The Bryant Derby Days council, made up of Sigma Chi brothers, sorority representatives, and other students, engages the campus community throughout the school year in support of raising both funds and awareness. Their efforts culminate in Derby Days itself, the result of nearly a year of planning, which takes in donations from nearly every corner of campus and was supported by a range of campus partners, including headline sponsor AVI Foodsystems.

“Bryant is a small school, but we’re able to make a big impact,” says Derby Days Treasurer Peter Misiaszek '24. “We’re such a tight-knit community, when something is important, and means so much to so many of us, we come out in support of each other.”

Alexia Brandao ’24 and Catherine Harris ’24 both received the 2024 Derby Days MVP award for their efforts in support of the fundraiser. “This was a way to get involved in something that matters, something larger than yourself,” says Brandao. Plus, she admits, it’s a lot of fun too.

This year’s Derby Days events included a trivia night, fundraising challenges, a “call-a-thon" that raised more than $30,000 in two hours; a White Rose ceremony, where attendees honored those lost to cancer; and the third annual James Koshivos golf outing, named for a former Bryant Sigma Chi brother who was passionate about Derby Days and passed away while still a student in 2022.

The closing ceremony, held on the patio of the Fisher Student Center, was a celebration of everything the campus community had achieved, with food trucks, yard games, a DJ, and a performance by alumni and student rock band Overserved, whose members also included an elated MacNeil. Nearly every student group was represented, from Best Buddies to Bryant’s student athletes to student government.

“Greek life here at Bryant is all about taking care of others."

“Everyone knows someone touched by cancer,” says Kestenbaum. “This is our opportunity to make a difference on behalf of a great cause, so it’s great to see everyone come together.”

A spirit of comradery and joy infused the gathering. When the final, overwhelming, total was announced at the end of the event, nearly the entire audience leapt from their chairs in mutual exultation and even disbelief.

“It's an amazing, beautiful feeling and I get goosebumps just thinking about it," notes Misiaszek. "I'm just so proud of everyone."

Gianpaolo Colasacco, M.Ed., Bryant’s coordinator for Greek Life & Community Director at Bryant University, like everyone else, was shocked by the amount raised, but not by Sigma Chi’s efforts. “Greek life here at Bryant is all about taking care of others,” he explains. “They work extremely hard and truly care about one another, this community, here at Bryant and the greater community outside of campus.”

Established in 1995 by entrepreneur, philanthropist, and Sigma Chi brother Jon M. Huntsman Sr., the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah, is known as one of the world’s best cancer hospitals and a global leader in the study and treatment of cancer at the molecular level. Derby Days unites Sigma Chi chapters around the country in support of the institute’s efforts and has raised more than $16 million for HCI since 2005. 

Read More

Related Stories