Theta Encore’s philanthropic show will go on as College Panhellenic (CPH) is set to host CASA Encore this month.
In the past, sorority Kappa Alpha Theta has hosted a blood drive, fundraiser and dance competition called “Theta Encore” to benefit a variety of charitable organizations, including Lafayette County’s branch of CASA, which is a nonprofit organization that advocates for children in the court system who have been abused or neglected.
Almost a year ago, Theta announced that the Epsilon Zeta chapter at the University of Mississippi would close at the end of the fall 2018 semester, citing “low membership and discouraging recruitment efforts.”
Following the Theta chapter’s closing in 2018, CPH decided to host the event this year, still benefiting Theta’s philanthropy. Women of the Panhellenic community say they are excited for Encore’s return.
Sidney Sirdashney, a Theta alum and the 2018 Theta fundraising director, said she’s excited about the future of Encore under its new direction.
“I am so happy that College Panhellenic has decided to take on this wonderful event,” Sirdashney said. “Although it was important to our chapter, I think that Panhellenic’s involvement now with the execution of the event with only strengthen it and bring more awareness and hopefully more volunteers to the Oxford community.”
CPH Vice President of Philanthropy Pirie Maher said Theta Encore has been an important Greek event for years and that Panhellenic wanted to continue its tradition.
“CPH decided to host this event because it is our duty as the governing council of the sorority community to ensure that important events like Encore continue,” Maher said. “Throughout the years, Encore has been an event looked forward to every year by the incoming pledge classes and has often served as a facilitator of team building that brings chapters closer together.”
The dance competition, hosted at the Gertrude C. Ford Center, allows each sorority chapter to enter a team made up of members of their newest pledge class, with many themed dances. The competition is judged by notable UM community members.
Theta Encore has been a favorite philanthropy event among Panhellenic women since 2002, when the first Theta Encore took place at Ole Miss. Tickets for the event have sold out in many recent years.
Chapters win points during the blood drive, the fundraiser and the dance competition, and the chapter with the most points wins the entire competition. Prizes include monetary donations made to sororities’ philanthropies.
“(The) purpose for gifting these prizes is to give back to the chapter’s own philanthropies in return for all their hard effort towards our philanthropy, CASA Encore,” Maher said.
Sirdashney said last year’s Theta Encore was significant for both Theta members and women in the Panhellenic community.
“All of the Panhellenic organizations involved were focused and determined to put on the best show possible, but when they heard of our chapter’s closing, they helped band together and fundraised and educated family and friends to the best of their ability on all CASA does,” Sirdashney said. “Last year we saw tons of Panhellenic support that ultimately helped us raise $92,000.”
Each sorority has selected a theme and active members to choreograph routines and coach the participants. Alpha Phi’s Panhellenic delegate, Emily LeClair, said this event is not only important for fundraising, but also pivotal for individual Panhellenic members.
“This is a very interesting time as the new pledge class is trying to find their spot in the chapter, and having practices allows the girls to really get to know each other and form new and stronger friendships,” LeClair said.
LeClair said she’s excited that this event is continuing under CPH.
“I think it was super important for CPH to adopt this philanthropy event since we all love being involved in philanthropy, especially when we have a CASA (branch) here in Oxford,” LeClair said.
Sarah Kane, a Theta alumna and senior integrated marketing communications student, said that considering the circumstances, she’s grateful the event is continuing.
“It’s always hard letting go of something that you really loved,” Kane said. “It was an event that was really close to my heart, but with that being said, I’m extremely grateful that is was picked up. At the end of the day… it was never about who hosted it. It was always about raising money to train CASA volunteers and to bring awareness to an organization that helps in so many ways.”
CASA Encore will take place during the next two weeks, starting with the blood drive Nov. 4-7 and the dance competition on Nov. 13 in the Ford Center at 7 p.m. Tickets to attend the dance competition are $15 and go on sale Nov. 6.