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The Incredible Impact Chi Omega has had on My Daughter

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The Incredible Impact Chi Omega has had on My Daughter

We have had the great privilege of watching Cassidy and her Sisters grow both personally and professionally over these last few years. We are thankful for the guidance and structure that Chi Omega has provided and its dedication to integrity, friendship, sense of purpose and the pursuit of personal and professional excellence. I will also be forever grateful to Chi Omega for picking up where we left off… conveying the type of values that would help her make good choices…modeling philanthropy and a deep appreciation for community... teaching the importance of self worth and the worth of those around her.
— Debbie McDowell

Four years ago I watched my beautiful baby girl walk across the stage to receive her high school diploma.  My mind was filled with so many thoughts and emotions.  I thought about that first day of kindergarten when, just like every other parent, I hoped that her first day of school would be amazing and wonderful.  I hoped that she would make friends easily, pay attention to her teachers and that she would be happy.  As I sat through her graduation ceremony, I had all of those thoughts and more.  As I struggled to reconcile the fact that my little girl was graduating from high school, I couldn’t help thinking how fast the years had gone by and wondered if we had done our job as parents to ensure that she would have a successful future.  I wondered if we had passed-on the type of values that would help her make good choices.  I wondered if we had modeled philanthropy and a deep appreciation for community.  I wondered if we had taught her the importance of recognizing her self worth and appreciating the worth of those around her.  And most of all…. I wondered how she would manage without us when she went on to college. Had I known then that fate would place her in the welcoming arms of the Chi Omega family, I would have rested easier that night.  

Cassidy transferred to the University of Iowa as a sophomore after spending her freshman year at Boise State University.  Even though she had grown up in Iowa, the transition was difficult.  She missed the friends she had made in Idaho; she missed being a Boise State cheerleader; and she missed the small feel of the Boise State campus.  While she didn’t say it specifically, we knew she was second guessing her decision to transfer to Iowa.  She seemed sad and withdrawn and we struggled to know what to say or how to help.  I was cautiously optimistic when she said she was planning to rush a sorority.  While I was hopeful that the bustle of activity might help break her out of the unhappy rut she was in, I was also concerned that a sorority would take too much time away from school.  Who could have guessed that instead of taking time away, the experience would only work to enhance Cassidy’s college experience and leave her with a lifetime of memories.

Cassidy was thrilled to join the Chi Omega Sisterhood!  She loved the girls, the house, and everything that Chi Omega stood for.  As parents, we were thrilled to find out that she was joining a sorority that had the top GPA for several years in a row!  In addition, we were so happy to see how her Sisters had embraced her and helped make Iowa feel a little smaller. We noticed a change for the better in her demeanor.  We couldn’t have been happier when she started getting the sparkle back in her eye and living each day with purpose.  

The last three years have flown by as fast as the high school years, but Chi Omega has done it’s best to pack a lifetime of lessons, memories and friendships into those years.  The opportunities for personal growth and development have been numerous.  Chi Omega’s influence has gone beyond what is taught in the classroom. The life skills Cassidy has learned in Chi Omega will stay with her forever.

Photo by Katherine Mendieta Photography & Films

Photo by Katherine Mendieta Photography & Films

Since 2002, Chi Omega’s alliance with Make-A-Wish has served to reinforce one of the founding principles of the Sisterhood which is service to others.  The alliance has provided lessons too numerous and profound to quantify.  Reaching out and working with families that are facing constant struggle has had a grounding and humbling effect on those seeking to help.  Being involved with Make-A-Wish has taught Cassidy that no matter how discouraging her day might seem or how bad she might feel, there is always someone fighting a bigger battle.  And while watching the struggles of others can feel hopeless, participating in Dance Marathon has illustrated how rallying together for a positive cause can bring about change in the lives of others.  

Chi Omega broke the record for most money raised by a sorority at Dance Marathon 22, coming together to raise over $95,000! 

Chi Omega broke the record for most money raised by a sorority at Dance Marathon 22, coming together to raise over $95,000! 

The Chi Omega/Make a Wish alliance has provided a wealth of lessons and has had a deep impact, yet it is only one of the many learning opportunities Chi Omega has provided.  

Living in the Chi O house has taught her about community and how everyone must do their part to keep the community thriving.

The Mom’s day and Dad’s day celebrations have taught her to reflect and appreciate those who have supported her dreams and endeavors.

The weekly recurring meetings have taught her the value of structure and organization.  

The Chi Omega family not only opened her eyes to the opportunities that Iowa provides but also the infinite opportunities that lie ahead of her.  

We have had the great privilege of watching Cassidy and her Sisters grow both personally and professionally over these last few years.  We are thankful for the guidance and structure that Chi Omega has provided and its dedication to integrity, friendship, sense of purpose and the pursuit of personal and professional excellence.

Soon I will watch my baby girl walk across the stage to receive her college diploma.  I’ll watch with great admiration of the intelligent, compassionate and caring young woman that she has become.  Again, I will be filled with emotions and questions about her future but I will rest easy knowing that we did the best job we could as parents to ensure that she would have a successful future.  I will also be forever grateful to Chi Omega for picking up where we left off…  conveying the type of values that would help her make good choices…modeling philanthropy and a deep appreciation for community...  teaching the importance of self worth and the worth of those around her.  And most of all…. I will be thankful that fate placed her in the welcoming and loving arms of Chi Omega.

- Debbie McDowell

photo by: Katherine Mendieta Photography & Films

photo by: Katherine Mendieta Photography & Films

Chi Omega has been a wonderful experience for Ashley. During the past four years, we have seen Ashley become more interested in how she can make a difference in the world.  She has become very independent and thoughtful. Not only has Chi Omega guided Ashley with her personal and career development, she now strives for academic excellence and continual improvement. She has changed her professional goals to teach artwork that will help children express themselves. She has become committed to serving others by volunteering, not just for Make-A-Wish but for others that may be in need.  

Chi Omegas at the annual Make-A-Wish Gala

Chi Omegas at the annual Make-A-Wish Gala

Chi Omega has challenged her to be the best she can be: to put others first; to pursue friendships with those that need a friend; to continually think before making judgements. Our very shy child that would never go or do anything without a friend or family member is now a strong conversationalist, very funny, adventurous and outgoing!  Chi Omega has made her into a strong, confident woman, with integrity.  We are confident that by living and learning the Chi Omega Symphony, Ashley has now found a sense of purpose. Her Chi O house, her Chi O friends and her Chi O experiences have changed Ashley to be the best she can. She will make a difference in the lives of those that need that extra hug. She will make a difference in the greater good of the community. Chi Omega will be in her heart forever; and because of that fact, she will have a bright future!

- Diana Willits

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Happy Nurses Week to our Chi Omega Nursing Majors

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Happy Nurses Week to our Chi Omega Nursing Majors

Studying Nursing at the University of Iowa has been the most challenging, rewarding, and inspiring experience of my 21 years thus far. Ten years from now, I see myself as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner working full time in a NICU, providing extraordinary care to neonates and their families. To say that pediatric nursing is a clinical interest or a preference of mine wouldn’t nearly be enough. My passion for providing care to children and babies is as deeply ingrained in me as my heart and soul; it is something that makes up the very fiber of who I am. Pediatric nursing is not just my goal, but my vocation: a path I feel so inherently suited for and confident about that I couldn’t imagine dedicating my life any other way.

Neonates need not only a dedicated, competent nurse, but also a motherly figure for when mom is gone. They need a voice for when they cannot speak and eyes and ears to monitor their health and direct their care when they cannot. They need critical thinkers, clear communicators, detail-oriented observers, and emotionally stable supporters. Since I joined Chi Omega, I have been incredibly blessed to belong in a sisterhood of women who provide each other with genuine care and support similarly to the care I value so much in giving my patients. My Sisters in Chi Omega are my eyes, ears, shoulders to lean on, cheerleaders to find perseverance in, and above all, my family in a new and unfamiliar face. They push me to refuse to settle, and to remember to believe in myself when the stresses of college seem unbearable and my goals seem unattainable. Chi Omega has instilled in me leadership skills that I plan on translating into the workplace by becoming a leader in the nursing field, particularly by going back to school to become a Nurse Practitioner.

I chose nursing because I believe in my capability and in my purpose. My Chi Omega Sisters are always there to remind me of this when I forget.

Amy O'Grady

Amy O'Grady teaches Kindergarteners about germs, through the Young Pediatric Nurse Clinicians Program. 

Amy O'Grady teaches Kindergarteners about germs, through the Young Pediatric Nurse Clinicians Program. 

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Chi Omega raises over $95,000 for UIowa Dance Marathon, FTK!

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Chi Omega raises over $95,000 for UIowa Dance Marathon, FTK!

Chi Omegas are passionate about their involvement in the University of Iowa Dance Marathon, truly making a difference everyday for children and families who are affected by pediatric cancer. As a leadership member, I was inspired by my fellow Chi Omegas who were both on leadership and dancers. They were always putting the kids and families before themselves and went above and beyond raising money FTK! (For the Kids!). Their enthusiasm for the organization never ceases to amaze me!

This Dance Marathon 22, Chi Omega broke the record for the top fundraising Sorority, raising over $95,000 which contributed to the final total of $2,424,031.22. As a result, we were awarded the amazing opportunity of going the Rec Center during the Big Event for an hour or two where we were able to do yoga, go for a swim, sit in the hot tub, or play pickup games of basketball or volleyball.

$2,424,031.22 raised FOR THE KIDS!

$2,424,031.22 raised FOR THE KIDS!

Morgan Kennedy, Dance Marathon 23 Executive Director

Morgan Kennedy, Dance Marathon 23 Executive Director

I could not be more proud of everything that Chi Omega has done for Dance Marathon 22 and I am excited to see how we make an even greater impact on the families this year!  Our very own, Morgan Kennedy has been an amazing role model for all of us to look up to. This year she has been chosen as the Executive Director of Dance Marathon 23. I could not think of any other person who deserves this positive more than Morgan. She is going to blow DM 23 out of the water because of her outpouring love and dedication to this organization.

Four Chi Omegas have been chosen for DM Chair positions. These ladies continue to show their love for this organization by taking on a big role for DM 23. As a chair they oversee the committee members and are constantly working hard to plan events, weekly meetings, and getting ready for the Big Event.

  • Jestine Rands - Morale Chair

  • Kenzie Kennedy - Family Rep Chair

  • Riley Coyle - Hospital Co-Chair

  • Emily Fortman - Dance Marathon the Marathon Coaching Chair

photo by Melissa Quaiyoom

photo by Melissa Quaiyoom

Jestine, a Morale Chair, is one of four individuals who are in charge of 50 Morale Captains as well as 54 Morale Captain Assistants. This year I have been given the opportunity to serve on leadership as a Morale Captain. I could not be luckier to have Jestine leading all of us to be the best Morale Captains that we can be. Last year as a Morale Captain, Jestine was awarded the “Highest Overall Retention at 92.96%”. She never gave up on her dancers and was willing to go out of her way for every single one of them in order for them to get to the Big Event. I know she will push me to keep raising the bar to raise the most money I can for the families as well as getting my dancers to the Big Event. Jestine is the definition of a Morale Captain that went above and beyond for her dancers. We are so lucky to have her representing Chi Omega as Morale Chair for DM23! 

Dance Marathon has given me many opportunities in life that I would never have gotten had I not made the decision to join freshman year. Dance Marathon has not only changed my life but it has also guided me along the right path to my dream profession, Child Life. Child Life Specialist’s help children and families cope with the hospital experience. They provide procedural preparation and use play as a coping modality to make the hospital and medical language less scary for children.

Marlee Speak, Kelsey Tebbe, and Annie Clendenen with fellow dancers during 'Power Hour' the last of the 24 hours of Dance Marathon.

Marlee Speak, Kelsey Tebbe, and Annie Clendenen with fellow dancers during 'Power Hour' the last of the 24 hours of Dance Marathon.

Dance Marathon has also led me to be a counselor with Children’s Cancer Connection, Camp Heart Connection. Camp Heart Connection is a week long camp in June for children who have had pediatric cancer. It is a place for them to go where they don’t have worry about kids staring at their scars or asking a million questions, because they have all gone through the same thing. They also offer a week long camp in August for the siblings of kids with pediatric cancer. This is a time for the siblings to be able spend time together in an environment where they are #1, and can bond with others who have dealt with the experience of having a sibling with cancer.

This summer, numbers have risen and 5 Chi Omega’s will be attending camp as either a counselor or on another camp committee! I am so excited to welcome them into the Camp Heart Connection family! Dance Marathon is a proud sponsor of Camp Heart Connection.

FTK always <3
Kelsey Tebbe

( read from Marlee Speak below )

Marlee Speak and Kelsey Tebbe served as counselors for Camp Heart Connection this summer.They are both studying to become Child Life Specialists.

Marlee Speak and Kelsey Tebbe served as counselors for Camp Heart Connection this summer.They are both studying to become Child Life Specialists.

As a founding purpose of Chi Omega, the importance of service to others plays a huge role in our lives. Chi Omega's alliance with Make-A-Wish has sparked a light in us, pushing us to fight for something bigger than ourselves everyday. So it's easy to see how our love for Make-A-Wish has also inspired our passion for Dance Marathon, where we dance for 24 hours to raise money and help kiddos battle a fight against cancer that no child should ever have to face. Chi Omega not only almost tripled the amount of money we raised last year with an outstanding number of $95,000, but had over 25 ladies hold various leadership positions for Dance Marathon, which is an entirely student run organization. 

We also had over 80 members of our chapter dance at the Big Event (you need to raise a minimum of $500 to attend), with several donating their hair as well. Paige Shockey even co-hosted a game of family feud with former Bachelor Chris Soules at Dance Marathon. 

Our business minded members had the opportunity to serve on the Business and Sponsorship Committees soliciting businesses for items to donate; restaurant gift cards to give to our Dance Marathon families, and collect and handle cash from family events and canning opportunities in the community. A few of our members had the opportunity to serve on the Development and Event Committees, brainstorming and planning all events that happen throughout the year and events that happen throughout the Big Event. A few other Chi Omega sisters had the opportunity to serve on the Family Relations cabinet directly working with our Dance Marathon families at family events. They worked inside of the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, and help put together the family room at the Big Event that is magical for the families and kiddos to enjoy together. Last but not least, our creative Sisters had the opportunity to serve on the PR/Marketing Committee to brainstorm new themes, apparel, social media, and document Dance Marathon events throughout the year.

When I joined Chi Omega, I never realized how impactful so many passionate, dedicated, and selfless women I would be surrounded by. I am so lucky to share my love and passion for Dance Marathon with so many of my Sisters that change the lives of those affected by pediatric cancer every single day. I think we could all agree that we knew we wanted to help change lives when getting involved in this organization, but little did we know how much it was going to change ours. Dance Marathon has led me to my future career of Child Life, further serving kiddos and families like the ones Dance Marathon has brought me to. It has completely led me to the purpose of my life where I can proudly support and uplift others. I can’t thank Dance Marathon and Chi Omega enough for inspiring me everyday, and for giving me the best college experience I could’ve ever asked for.

- Marlee Speak

Want to be a part of Dance Marathon 23? Sign up here!

You can even choose to join a group lead by a Chi Omega!
-Group 2: Haylee Parker
-Group 29: Kelsey Tebbe
-Group 41: Megan Frischmeyer

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CHI OMEGA KARLY DANKERT STARTS 'HAWKEYE SPARKLES' SPIRIT SQUAD FOR STUDENTS WITH AND WITHOUT DISABILITES

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CHI OMEGA KARLY DANKERT STARTS 'HAWKEYE SPARKLES' SPIRIT SQUAD FOR STUDENTS WITH AND WITHOUT DISABILITES

Hawkeye Sparkle Spirit Squad founder Karly Dankert

Hawkeye Sparkle Spirit Squad founder Karly Dankert

Hi! I'm Karly, and I want to tell you about the Sparkle Effect, a student lead program that empowers junior high, high school, and college students across the country to include all students, with and without disabilities, in cheerleading and dance programs. I was a part of a Sparkle Effect dance team while in high school and completely fell in love with everything the program had to offer. Not only did I get to be involved in an organization that focused on a sport that I loved; however, I also got to share my passion for the sport with a group of girls that, without the Sparkle Effect, probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so.

Hawkeye Sparkles Spirit Squad members perform at Greek Follies. Photo by Melissa Quaiyoom

Hawkeye Sparkles Spirit Squad members perform at Greek Follies. Photo by Melissa Quaiyoom

I was actively involved in dance all growing up and when I got to college I knew that I wanted to continue dancing, but I wasn’t quite sure how. During my junior year, the Sparkle Effect was continuing to expand and teams began to develop at Universities throughout the country. This was when I figured out how I was meant to continue my passion for dance and make an impact on campus. I then met with two friends from my high school, Allie Pastrnak (Chi Omega) and Lauren Delzell (Delta Gamma). They were as determined as I was to bring the Sparkle Effect to Iowa and it all went uphill from there. The University of Iowa Hawkeye Sparkles became the fourth college team to be apart of the Sparkle Effect.

The Hawkeye Sparkles is a student organization on campus that functions as an all inclusive spirit squad that cheers on the Hawkeyes in a fun and innovative way. Practices are held once a week and include stretching, learning cheers and jumps, going across the floor, and working on routines for performances. This semester we had performances at Dance Marathon, an Iowa Women’s basketball game, the NCAA gymnastics meet, and Follies for Greek Week.

To this day, I am still in awe at how quickly this organization has grown on campus. It is such a rewarding feeling to see the girls who were so hesitant and reserved at our first practice go up on stage and dance their heart out without fear holding them back. The bonds that our team members have formed throughout the semester are so inspiring and the personal growth of both the students with and without disabilities is admirable. Throughout my involvement, The Sparkle Effect has made such a tremendous impact on my life and I cannot wait to see how it continues to change those at the University of Iowa’s campus.

Karly Dankert 

Chi Omega Reid Lefler with the Hawkeye Sparkles. Photo by Melissa Quaiyoom&nbsp;

Chi Omega Reid Lefler with the Hawkeye Sparkles. Photo by Melissa Quaiyoom 

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