Fox, university students run for mental health nonprofit

Gamma Iota Sigma, a Fox fraternity, is fundraising for the charity Michael’s Giving H.A.N.D.

Michael McCloskey, a risk, insurance and healthcare management professor, holds this year’s Temple Broad Street Run T-shirt in his office in Alter Hall on Wednesday. | HANNAH BURNS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Early on the morning of May 6, students, faculty and alumni will join nearly 40,000 people for the 39th annual Broad Street Run. The course, spanning Broad Street from Fisher Avenue to the Navy Yard, will run alongside Main Campus.

Michael McCloskey, a risk, insurance and healthcare management professor, said this event makes him proud.

“There’s no other college campus that the run comes through,” McCloskey said. “It’s our run. That’s sort of our motto: ‘Temple runs Broad Street.’”

McCloskey is also the faculty adviser for Temple’s chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma, a Fox School of Business fraternity primarily composed of risk management and insurance and actuarial science students.

For nearly eight years, professors, faculty and alumni, in partnership with Temple Police, have joined Gamma students for the run.

“We want everybody on our team,” McCloskey said. “We’re not ‘Hey, this is a Fox thing.’ I don’t for one second think that.”

The organization uses proceeds from the team’s T-shirt sales to support its charity of choice each year. Past charities have included ARTZ Philadelphia and the Gift of Life Family House.

But this year’s charity is especially close to the Fox community.

Sophia Verros, a 1995 accounting alumna, and Gamma Broad Street Run teammate, died by suicide after a long battle with depression in June 2017.

The students elected to make this year’s donation in Verros’s name to Michael’s Giving H.A.N.D., a Philadelphia nonprofit focused on helping high school students with anxiety and depression.

The organization was founded in 2016 by trustee Ronald Donatucci after his son Michael died by suicide. It works closely with Temple University Health System to promote a broader understanding of mental illness in Philadelphia high schools and provide resources to families struggling with anxiety and depression.

Michael Donatucci, who served as the chief investment officer for the city’s pension fund, had long suffered from an anxiety disorder that led to a struggle with severe depression.

So far, Gamma has raised nearly $6,000 this year for the charity. The organization has set a goal of $15,000.

Francesco Giordano, a Gamma officer, said the organization does its best to work with local charities to have an immediate impact.

“We like to pick [a charity] that we know does affect a large portion of our student body,” said Giordano, a senior risk management and insurance major. “We wanted to do it for [Verros], and in her memory, but moreover, we wanted to really show everybody that it does affect people every single day in every walk of life.”

Maria Ceschan, a 2011 marketing alumna and Verros’s niece, supports the organization’s mission of changing the conversation surrounding mental health.

“I don’t think we’re at a point yet where people pay as close attention to mental health as they do to physical health,” Ceschan said. “I think starting the conversation early and making people feel, if you feel depressed or if you feel like you have anxiety, that you have some place to turn to is really the key here.”

Lisa Pflaumer, the executive director of Michael’s Giving H.A.N.D., said anxiety and depression can be challenging subjects to discuss with high school students.

“We never really talked about it,” Pflaumer said. “It’s like rubbing up against sandpaper. It’s not always pleasant, but it’s necessary if you want to create a smooth surface.”

The organization’s high school outreach program works with Temple University Hospital’s psychiatry and behavioral science department to present Philadelphia high school students and staff with information on topics like anxiety and depression, bullying and drug and alcohol use.

In addition to raising awareness, the nonprofit uses its funds to help reduce the financial barriers associated with pursuing mental health treatment.

“There’s a lot of stressors that our teenagers are dealing with in a different way than what we had to deal with when we were the same age,” Pflaumer said. “Social media applies another layer of pressure to students.”

Since its inception, the program has visited eight high schools to meet with students, faculty and staff. Three more events are scheduled before the end of the school year.

The nonprofit has focused on private high schools in the Philadelphia area so far, but Pflaumer said they hope to expand into the School District of Philadelphia soon.

“There is a definite need for the students and their families,” Pflaumer said. “Anxiety and depression [do] not have a face. [They are] an equal opportunity offender.”

For Pflaumer, she hopes the organization’s work can let young adults know someone is always there if they need help.

“When they’re feeling it, they need to have someone available,” Pflaumer said. “Making sure that they have that safe zone to go to is so critical, and that it’s a judgment-free zone…focused on what we can do to support that person.”

1 Comment

  1. I know staff are also running this race and on the team. However, in the first paragraph, students, faculty, and alumni are mentioned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.