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Home away from home: Greek Life introduces one family to another

Courtesy+Sabrina+DeSisti.%26nbsp%3BSabrina+DeSisto+and+her+mom%2C+Chelley+DeSisto%2C+pose+at+Alpha+Phis+2015+Red+Dress+gala.+The+gala+is+an+annual+philanthrophy+hosted+every+year+during+Family+Weekend.

Courtesy Sabrina DeSisti. Sabrina DeSisto and her mom, Chelley DeSisto, pose at Alpha Phi’s 2015 Red Dress gala. The gala is an annual philanthrophy hosted every year during Family Weekend.

For most students, UA Family Weekend is the chance to give families a glimpse into their everyday college life. But for members of Greek Life, Family Weekend also presents the opportunity to introduce their family from home to their sorority or fraternity family.

Almost every single sorority and fraternity hosts events during Family Weekend, from brunches and barbecues to tailgates and a special section at the football game. Despite the weekend’s festivities only lasting two or three days, planning starts up to four months in advance.

Dani Haboush, an accounting sophomore and Family Weekend chairman at Sigma Kappa, started planning in June. She said that it’s a lot more work than she thought, and it involves working a lot of numbers and excel spreadsheets.

This year, Sigma Kappa’s plans had to change last minute when it was revealed that the football game would be at 12:30 p.m., instead of a night game. Haboush said she originally had an all-day barbecue planned that would be catered and allow people to come and go before the game. After the announcement of the football game’s start time, she had to completely re-plan everything just days before the weekend began and organize a brunch instead.

“From the planning side of it, I’m excited for it to be done and over and for everyone to be happy,” Haboush said. “I’m just crossing my fingers. I definitely learned to be flexible, because things just change like that. You just roll with it.”

In addition, Haboush was in charge of working with Arizona Football to secure tickets for every member of Sigma Kappa and their families so that they could sit in a big section together. She also had to arrange times for the open house for families to come in and out.

“I think it’s a cool experience for the parents because you kind of see—at least for my parents—where the money is going,” Haboush said. “They see the people that I talk about all the time and then they meet their parents and end up being a lot like them, and then we end up being able to go to the football game and stuff. It just gives you stuff to do with your family.”

For some parents, visiting their children at their Greek house is a reminder of their time in college. For Steven Adler, father of political science junior and member of fraternity Zeta Beta Tau, Ben Adler, visiting for Family Weekend is the opportunity to see his own son in the fraternity that he helped establish over 30 years ago.

Steven and 10 others worked to make ZBT an official chapter at the UA in 1983. Now, he gets to go back during Family Weekend to visit his son.

“My favorite part of not only Family Weekend but anytime I come back to the UA and ZBT, is the great memories I have going to school and learning and the lifelong friends I have from school and the fraternity,” Steven said. “Going to the house, I enjoy sharing that pride.”

Today, Ben gets to continue his father’s legacy.

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“It means a lot having my dad come back to the UA for Family Weekend, especially because he was in ZBT himself,” Ben said. “It’s a certain sense of pride that not everyone in the fraternity gets to share, unfortunately.”

Another feature of Family Weekend that members of Greek life can experience is seeing their parents in a party setting.

“We like to show the parents a good time,” Ben said. “That usually involves a tailgate and a catered dinner or something on those lines. It’s kind of surreal seeing the ones we saw as authority figures growing up participating in the tailgate festivities.”

On the other hand, families who come for the weekend also have the chance to see the charitable work that their children do as a part of Greek life.

RELATED: A Wildcat family migration: Giving those traveling far and wide a taste of the UA, Tucson

Alpha Phi’s Red Dress Gala takes place every Family Weekend at a local hotel, where the sorority’s members wear red dresses in honor of spreading awareness for research and treatment of heart disease.

According to Alpha Phi’s website, the casino-style event includes a cocktail reception, gambling, dinner and silent and live auctions. In 2015, the sorority raised $39,000.

Sabrina DeSisto, a junior psychology major and member of Alpha Phi, said she likes that their main philanthropy is during Family Weekend because it’s a change to spend quality time with both family and friends and all for a good cause.

“It’s so much fun to dress up for the first night of Family Weekend and really share this touching evening with our loved ones,” DeSisto said. “I would say the best thing about doing our philanthropy event during Family Weekend is that … the parents get to feel involved in our lives while we’re away at school, and they get to see all the good we do for the community.”

From extensive planning to legacies experiencing a sense of homecoming to families getting to participate in philanthropy, Family Weekend offers students in Greek Life the chance to spend time with both of their families—those from home and those in their home away from home.


Follow Leah Merrall on Twitter.


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