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Community in Unexpected Places

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

In 2019, I had the wonderful opportunity to serve as the Student Outreach Coordinator

for my fraternity, Sigma Chi. As part of my raiseRED committee responsibilities, I wanted to set a pretty ambitious fundraising goal not just for the chapter, but for myself as well. I knew I

wanted to raise more than $1,000 but I wasn’t really sure how I’d get there. Enter Waffle House.

As fantasy football seasons across the country drew to a close last year, a punishment

emerged for many league losers – the Waffle House Challenge. Generally, it goes something like this: participants are required to spend 24 hours in a Waffle House, but for each waffle they eat, they can subtract an hour from the 24 hour requirement. It might look something like 13 waffles and 11 hours, 15 waffles and 9 hours, or any other combo that adds to 24. You get the point. Rather than take this as a punishment, I flipped the challenge on its head and used it as a unique fundraising opportunity.

I entered the Preston Highway Waffle House in Louisville, Kentucky at about 9:45 AM

on February 1st , 2019. I was seated by ten and the challenge began. I streamed my battle with the breakfast foods live on Twitch and was lucky enough to have several people sponsor donations based on the number of waffles I ate. As the hours passed, I had a number of different visitors –friends, acquaintances, and even a University of Louisville administrator who stopped by to cheer me on.

While I loved having visitors to help pass the time, I think the most impactful conversation of the day came with a waiter at Waffle House who wasn’t even tending my table. On his break, a waiter named Andrew came over to sit down with me and ask why I was spending so much time at my booth. After explaining the challenge and raiseRED as the beneficiary, he shared the impact cancer had on his niece and was very appreciative of the efforts UofL students make to raise awareness and funds for pediatric hematology and oncology patients. In an incredibly moving gesture, he donated his tip money to raiseRED.

Over the years, that donation has probably meant the most to me. That interaction happened totally by chance, but it highlighted the impact that cancer plays in the lives of

everyone. Whether it’s a family member, friend, or colleague, all of us have been touched by

cancer and its brutal impact. It’s one of the reasons why I’m so eager every year to do my small part in helping raise funds to hopefully put an end to cancer and the tragedy that comes with it.

And for the curious, I had 38 people visit me at Waffle House between February 1st and

2nd , and by 1 AM on that second day, 56 donors had helped raise $1,047. I’d eat 9 waffles and spend 15 hours in a Waffle House any day of the week to replicate that.

For the Kids Always,

Ben Barberie

Finance Director

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