The brothers of Theta Chi — Iota Theta Chapter at the University of Central Florida pose at their 2015 G.I. Theta Chi event.
For Theta Chi Fraternity, partnering with the USO was an easy decision.
The fraternity, which has military roots dating back to its founding, has a history of supporting military nonprofits. After years of backing organizations that primarily serve wounded, ill and injured troops and veterans, Theta Chi expanded its philanthropic efforts in 2013 to support the larger military community.
“By supporting the USO, Theta Chi not only honors its creed, but also its storied military roots,” Theta Chi Executive Director Mike Mayer said.
G.I Theta Chi participants pose at the University of Central Florida in 2015.
Since the partnership began two years ago, Theta Chi has raised over $43,102 to benefit the USO.
“The members of Theta Chi have already made an impact to the USO by hosting events that both bring monetary benefit as well as raising awareness in the community,” USO Regional Development Manager Kyndele Cooke said at Theta Chi’s 2014 National Convention.
The USO also partners with the Greek organizations Delta Kappa Epsilon and Phi Gamma Delta.
Rooted in the Military Community
Theta Chi’s connection with the military dates back to its founding in at Norwich University in 1856. That year, two cadets attending Norwich — the oldest private military college in the country — created the Theta Chi Society, which eventually became Theta Chi fraternity.
Many of the organization’s first members, who were also military cadets at Norwich, had to leave their studies to fight in the Civil War. Several other Theta Chi brothers throughout history have served in the military, including a handful who are veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
G.I. Theta Chi participants paddle a canoe at the University of Central Florida.
“Being a military-based fraternity, we would sometimes recruit guys who are coming back from the service to go to college,” Heard said. “We had two Marines in our [Theta Chi — Iota Theta Chapter at the University of Central Florida] in the past four years.”
Creating G.I. Theta Chi
Before the fraternity’s official partnership with the USO began, several Theta Chi chapters held “G.I. Theta Chi” philanthropy events to raise money for other military nonprofits. These “G.I. Theta Chi” events, which originated at the Theta Chi — Iota Theta Chapter at the University of Central Florida, now benefit the USO.
“Just a couple years ago we decided to start something that would set us apart on campus and nationally as far as raising money for a good cause,”said Wylder Heard, the philanthropy chair at the University of Central Florida’s Theta Chi — Iota Theta Chapter. “What makes us come back to do it every single year is the fact that we’re raising money to help the troops.”
G.I. Theta Chi events vary from school to school. At the University of Central Florida, the fraternity holds a weeklong fundraising competition involving the entire campus. At the end of the week, Theta Chi leads a field day with military-themed activities. All students, regardless of Greek affiliation, are invited to participate in the week’s events.
“Everyone knows, ‘Oh, G.I. Theta Chi,'” Heard said. “‘I want to participate. I love the obstacle course. I love the cause. I love America.’
“I guess that’s one thing: Everyone can be a patriot [during G.I. Theta Chi].”