On the surface, this is a fundraiser for charity. However, as you look at it through the lens of our fraternity, you will see that APOlachian Trail 2018 is much more than a fundraiser. The event is named after the Appalachian Trail, which is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, ranging across 14 states from Maine to Georgia. It attracts approximately 3 million visitors per year. Last year, that included hikers for APOlachian Trail 2017, who raised over $3,200 for Feeding America. That adds up to almost 36,000 meals for the hungry. This year, the event is growing beyond the AT to allow brothers everywhere to participate on whatever trail is convenient to them.
The benefits of this hike far surpass that of a charity event. While it will be incumbent on each “team” to raise funds, other benefits include: experiencing the beauty of the world around you, building comradery with brothers, and practicing your leadership skills as the group organizes and assigns roles and responsibilities. You will build identity of self and identity of fraternity on a national level, earning pride and building momentum as the event is communicated across social media. You will learn many new skills that will empower you to take action when it counts the most. Finally, that feeling of accomplishment when you complete your section of the hike may only be rivaled by the shared feeling of accomplishment when our fraternity comes together to support a worthy cause.
Indeed, the timing of APOlachian Trail 2018 could not be more perfect. A huge event to build up hype for APO is exactly what we need in order to ramp up our recruitment efforts across the nation. Using the tools we learned to use during virtual marathon, we will all be able to cherish each mile a fellow brother hikes. And we will show the world what a strong, driven organization can accomplish from a simple idea: hike for charity. When your chapter enters into Rush season in the fall semester, they’ll be able to say, “When you join APO, you don’t just join one chapter. You join a network of tremendous people across the nation that can achieve things the likes of which others can only dream!” New brothers and pledges can be encouraged to take part in the hike, but no one should be required to participate.
There are many challenges that lie ahead. Many obstacles must be overcome before reaching the trailhead, not to mention the challenges of harsh terrain and unpredictable weather patterns. They will call into question our resolve and determination to accomplish the task. When these things happen, just remember: there are over 400,000 members of Alpha Phi Omega who believe in you, and believe in our cause. And when we work together, nothing can stand in our way. I’ll see you out on the trail.