Carnegie Mellon University
November 23, 2020

Giving Back

By Felicia Lucot

Jason Maderer
  • Marketing and Communications
  • 412-268-1151
Thirty thousand is a big number. It represents the amount of people who have ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, at any given moment. It's also the number of times that Alex Sahinidis juggled a soccer ball over an 11-hour period to raise money for the Live Like Lou Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to finding a cure for the disease.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There is no known cure for ALS, and the progressive degeneration of the motor neurons that reach from the brain to the spinal cord and muscles throughout the body eventually leads to death.

Sahinidis, a junior at Carnegie Mellon University studying economics and finance, works to raise money for ALS each year through his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta. Sahindis began his fundraising journey, which would ultimately raise $1,000 for the Live Like Lou Foundation, in November of 2019. His progress was admittedly slow.

"We raise money for ALS each year, and I won't lie, sometimes it felt routine and more often, like a chore," Sahinidis said. "My entire perspective changed when I met Susan."

Susan is a resident receiving treatment and care for ALS at a facility about 40 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. Sahindis met Susan in October, when Phi Delta Theta provided members the opportunity to volunteer for an individual impacted by the disease. For Sahinidis, meeting her was a life-changing experience.

Although Susan could not speak and required a machine to track her eye movements to express herself verbally, Sahindis recalls that she was funny and fun to be around.

"After completing some chores for her, she was very thankful, and I could see that. But then suddenly, she broke down crying and I was immediately touched by her vulnerability and gratitude," he said. "I already knew that the world around me was much bigger than what I experience in my day to day life, but I had never seen it right in front of me. I now see where these philanthropic efforts lead to. They are to help give her the best life that she has left."

His short time with Susan inspired Sahinidis to ramp up his fundraising, and quickly. For the last month, he spent time individually raising money for the Iron Phi Challenge, an honor and distinction given to a small percentage of Phi Delta Theta's members who raise $1,000 or more for the Live Like Lou Foundation and complete an athletic event. Nationally, $1.4 million has been raised by Phi Delta Theta's Iron Phis, a number Sahinidis wanted to help grow.

Sahinidis encourages others to find ways to give back, especially in light of the pandemic.

"With everything going on around us, it's healthy to take a step back sometimes and look for ways to help those around you," he said.

"No matter the circumstances we find ourselves in, there is always an opportunity to put a smile on another's face and leave a positive impact on the world around you."