Kangas, the 2012 chairwoman for Zeta Tau Alpha’s “Think Pink” breast cancer awareness campaign, was at the national Zeta Tau Alpha convention during the summer after her freshman year when she woke up to a text from her dad, asking her to call him.
Her grandmother had died early that morning.
Just the day before, Kangas had wanted to call her grandmother, who was in hospice after her breast cancer spread to other organs in her body. She had paid for Kangas to go to the convention, and Kangas wanted to tell her how excited she was to be there, but her dad had suggested she wait a day.
Kangas said her grandmother, whom she called Jo Jo, was first diagnosed when Kangas’ dad was in high school, but she was able to live with the disease for decades before finally succumbing.
“I know she is proud of the difference I am making (with breast cancer awareness),” Kangas said.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Zeta Tau Alpha’s annual “Think Pink” campaign is set to take place during the last week of October, starting on Monday, Oct. 27 and concluding on Nov. 2, said Gabriella Gallo, the current chairwoman of the campaign.
Gallo, a sophomore, said the sorority is planning events for every day of the week, leading up to the male beauty pageant known as “Big Man On Campus.”
She said the events will include a cotton candy handout, a yogurt-eating contest for the men competing in the pageant and a trick-or-treat for pink candy in the quad on Halloween.
“We are going to try to be super fun and super loud,” Gallo said.
She said the “Think Pink” campaign is used to raise awareness while the “Big Man On Campus” competition is used for fundraising.
This year will be the third year of the male pageant. Kangas said in its first year the pageant raised about $5,000.
Zeta Tau Alpha partners with the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, among others organizations, and always invites someone from the center to speak before their Franklin 5K in the spring, Kangas said.
The 5K is the largest source of fundraising for the cause, Gallo said.
Zeta Tau Alpha president Emily Pope said this year, “Big Man On Campus” will be expanding to include other sororities and fraternities, with the winning sorority-sponsored guy receiving winnings for the sorority’s philanthropic cause.
Pope said what separates Zeta Tau Alpha is how much emphasis it puts on raising awareness about breast cancer.
“I think what is really special about Zeta nationally is that it’s not just raising money for breast cancer but raising awareness as well,” Pope said.
Kangas said Zeta Tau Alpha’s commitment to breast cancer awareness helped her make the decision to join the sorority.
“When I went through recruitment as a freshman, I didn’t know anything about what sorority I wanted to be in,” Kangas said.
“I knew I wanted to be in one, but I had no idea Zeta’s philanthropy was breast cancer research and awareness, and I liked the girls, so when I found that out I was like, ‘OK, this is the house I want to be in.’”