Meet Zeta's Co-Director of Philanthropy: Kiah Vandenbrink

Name: Kiah Vandenbrink

Age: 19

Hometown: Bloomingdale, IL

Major: Neurobiology

1. What is your role for Light the Way? 

I am a co-director of philanthropy for Zeta Tau Alpha. Basically, I organize and plan all philanthropy-related events including Light the Way. 


2. How did you become involved?

I was an assistant to the directors of philanthropy last year, and I knew I would like to take a greater role in planning and organizing our philanthropies. 


3. What is the preparation for the event like? When do you start planning?

Light the Way is a luminaria service. That means luminarias (candle-lit bags that have ribbons dedicated to those who have been affected by breast cancer) are lined down Sheridan and we walk on the sidewalk to honor or support those who have fought breast cancer. 

We start planning about a month or two in advance, especially if it requires organizing shifts for our members and/or creating or purchasing materials.  Right after our Carnival for a Cure, we began by asking older members of the chapter for advice and helpful tips. Then, we planned what we would need to purchase for the event and what we could get donated. The money that we use to purchase items for our philanthropy (such as lights for the luminaria bags) are deducted from our fundraising efforts. Therefore, we are extra careful with deciding what we need to buy for each event. It took us a very long time, for example, to find a good alternative to tea lights for the luminarias because we wanted to avoid any luminarias catching fire. We also decided how we wanted the luminaria bags to look and how we should divide shifts. Another large part of planning was figuring out how to extend the invite to Greek or non-Greek members of Northwestern. We hope that the Northwestern community will join us in honoring those who have fought breast cancer. 


5. How many people will be involved with Light the Way?

There will be about 90 of our members and hopefully many other members of the greater Northwestern community. Also, everyone that donates $2 will receive a ribbon that we can put on the luminarias. These individuals are also directly involved with Light the Way even if they cannot come for the walk. 


6. Why is this such an important event at NU?

I feel very lucky to be a part of a chapter that holds such a meaningful event. Each member of our chapter is passionate about the education and awareness of breast cancer, so when we get to honor survivors or those who have passed away through a meaningful luminaria service we are directly supporting our cause. I know there are a lot of fundraising requests and charity donations on campus, but I truly believe Light the Way is an amazing way to combine fundraising with being directly involved in honoring and supporting those affected by breast cancer. 


7. What has been your most memorable moment throughout the years participating with Light the Way?

The most memorable moment so far was when a member of our chapter's grandma thanked us for doing this event. Her grandma expressed this gratitude because her daughter has been in recovery from breast cancer for many years. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment or in the chaos of planning an event, we forget how important the event could be to a family member, friend or a neighbor. The thank you from one of our sister's grandma reminded me of the constant battle someone affected by breast cancer faces and that any support from us can go a long way in supporting that person in their battle. 


8. What moment are you looking forward to this year? 

I am looking forward to starting the walk this Mother's Day with members of our chapter and the Northwestern community. It has been chaotic planning this event, but I know once we see the luminarias with the personalized ribbons lined up on Sheridan it will be a very meaningful experience. 


9. Anything else you want to add? 

Thank you for interviewing me!