Key West Fest works to aid veterans, their families
On Friday, March 18, UCF’s Kappa Sigma fraternity will host its third annual Key West Fest philanthropy event benefiting the Military Heroes Campaign.
“The Military Heroes Campaign is Kappa Sigma’s nationwide philanthropy," said Nick Cocco, the president of the fraternity's UCF chapter. "Key West Fest is the Lambda Epsilon chapter’s way of contributing to the cause."
The campaign works to aid military veterans and their families in the United States and Canada. Thus far, it has donated more than $1 million to organizations who advocate for veterans, according to the campaign’s website. The campaign hits close to home, as UCF has over 1,300 veterans currently enrolled according to UCF’s Veterans Academic Resource Center, also known as VARC.
“Key West Fest is a beach concert series that brings almost 1,000 students to our house on campus,” said Harrison Chau, the chapter's vice president of public relations. “We empty our parking lot and fill it with 200 tons of sand, essentially creating an artificial beach. Every year, we scout the country for up-and-coming EDM artists to play at our concert.”
This year, performers Elephante and Illenium are headlining.
“We really pride ourselves in creating a unique atmosphere that no other outdoor concert at UCF can match," Chau said. "We want the event to be an extremely fun time that you can enjoy with your closest friends, and we [want] to bring the beach to you."
In addition to the concert, the event is also a competition involving all of the UCF’s Panhellenic Council’s 12 sororities. The competition runs the entire week of March 14-18.
“Each chapter nominates two sisters to compete in the competition in order to be crowned the Queens of Key West Fest,” Chau said. “The competition includes events such as banner and skimboard painting, sand castle building, a corn hole and tug of war tournament, a partial proceeds at Habaneros Mexican Grill, and a ‘Military Heroes Day,’ honoring our veterans outside of the Student Union.”
Hanna Shapiro is one of the sisters representing the Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority at the competition.
“I’ve heard amazing things about the fraternity and I wanted to meet the brothers of Kappa Sigma while learning more about their philanthropy and brotherhood,” Shapiro said. “Their philanthropy is important because it raises awareness and brings Greek life together in a fun way that raises money for those who have served our country.”
The winning chapter then receives a ‘Seven Seas Week’ the following fall semester from Kappa Sigma. A ‘Seven Seas Week’ is a week made entirely of socials, yard letters and meals.
Key West Fest is more than just a concert and sorority competition to Kappa Sigma.
“We have several brothers that serve in ROTC, as well as a few recent alumni who are currently serving throughout the military,” Cocco said.
The chapter has high hopes for this year’s event.
“Last year, we were able to break UCF’s record for the most money ever raised by a Greek organization by raising over $30,000,” Chau said. “This year, our goal is $35,000, and it looks as though we’ll be able eclipse that.”
The sorority competition begins at 3:00 p.m. and the doors open for the concert at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased for $15 at keywestfest.eventbrite.com or for $20 at the door. Those wanting to contribute to the Military Heroes Campaign can do so at gofundme.com/keywestfest2016.
Isabelle D'Antonio is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.