There’s more to a red dress than material! Just ask the ladies of Alpha Phi.
Alpha Phi (pronounced “Alpha Fee”) is an international sorority boasting more than 200,000 members, with a presence on more than 170 campuses throughout North America.
The organization has been around since 1872—however, representation in Ottawa is still relatively new.
In fact, it was only three short years ago that Alpha Phi established a chapter at the University of Ottawa.
That chapter is led in part by Chattalie Jayatilaka, VP of Campus Affairs for Alpha Phi Iota Upsilon (the Greek name of the local chapter).
Like most (if not all) sororities, service is a core value for Alpha Phi. As such, chapters regularly host a variety of local service opportunities throughout the year, encouraging members as well as the general public to give back.
Supporting women’s heart health has always been a major focal point for the sorority. It was highlighted as an important cause during Alpha Phi’s first convention in 1946 held in Quebec—when, says Chattalie, the organization decided it needed an international cause they could “give their all to.”
“Right from the beginning, Alpha Phi had the idea of helping to fight a disease that was affecting a majority of women on a large scale.” Interestingly, adds Chattalie, “Even today, we understand that heart disease is the number-one killer of women in North American—but it’s still a huge surprise to people. Everyone seems to think that it’s cancer. And when we talk to people, it’s shocking to us that women have no idea how prevalent it is and how many of us might even be affected.”
As such, Chattalie and her chapter spend a great deal of time throughout the year educating others on campus about women’s heart health, holding blood drives and fundraising bake sales, and promoting heart-healthy activities to their peers.
This year, the Ottawa chapter will also host its fourth annual Red Dress Gala: a fundraising event to support “heart health organizations” including the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation.
The 2017 gala will be held November 11th at the Lago Bar and Grill on Dow’s Lake. Building on the success of other chapters’ galas, Chattalie acknowledges that the local event has certainly grown since its “early days.”
“This will be our fourth gala,” says Chattalie. “In September 2014 when we first started the chapter, we only had a few members and our goal at that time was to raise $1,000. That first gala was in February 2015—not giving us a lot of time to plan! But we hit our goal. And every year since then, we’ve raised the bar a bit higher each time.”
This year, Alphi Phi Iota Upsilon’s goal is to raise $5,000 toward heart health.
“We have 100 girls this year working on the event, and we’re inviting more than 300 people and tickets are available to the public, so I’m pretty optimistic that our group will do its part to meet our financial goals,” says Chattalie.
Half of the funds raised from the Red Dress Gala will go toward the Heart Institute Foundation to support programs and initiatives at the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre, with the remainder going to the Alpha Phi Foundation’s Heart to Heart Grant. Since 2014, this $100,000 annual grant has been awarded to hospitals and research facilities that are making breakthroughs in better understanding heart attacks, heart disease and strokes in women—specifically its symptoms, treatment and prevention.
In the week leading up to the gala, Alpha Phi Iota Upsilon will man a table on campus to raise money and awareness about women’s heart health, and encourage students to take life-saving classes in CPR skills training.
But that’s not where Alpha Phi’s commitment to the cause ends, says Chattalie: on an international level, the sorority is also known to help its own members.
“Our entire executive goes to an annual conference every year, and one of the girls had heart disease and needed a heart transplant,” she recalls. “Obviously, things are different in the US in terms of health care. Alpha Phi paid for everything for her—all her bills. And now, she’s doing great.”
Attend the Red Dress Gala!
The gala is open to anyone who wants to support women’s heart health. Join Chattalie, Alpha Phi, politicians, Heart Institute employees and other community leaders and supporters this November 11th at the 4th annual Red Dress Gala. Tickets are now available for purchase through Eventbrite.com.