TCU students built forts with children at Beta Upsilon Chi’s second annual “Forts for Fortress” event on Wednesday in the Brown Lupton University Union.
BYX members mentor children from Fortress Youth Development Center for their philanthropy project. Once a year, the fraternity invites the Fortress kids to TCU to participate in a fort-building contest.
This year, 18 children ages 5-12 were at the event.
“We pair the kids with participants from each of TCU’s sororities, where they become the “architect” of the fort,” said Bryce Baca, BYX president. “It is such a cool and unique event because the kids get to visit a college campus while having a lot of fun playing and interacting with TCU’s students.”
Fortress Youth Development Center works with at-risk youth who live in generational poverty in Fort Worth, said Dani Kocur, volunteer coordinator at Fortress. Members of the fraternity who are able to devote time to the program are assigned one boy at Fortress whom they mentor throughout their time at TCU.
“The mentor program allows us the opportunity to bring hope into the lives of these at-risk children,” Baca said. “We are able to provide male role models for these young boys, who may come from homes that do not have that in their lives. By developing relationships with them, our mentors help them to be equipped academically, engage socially and grow spiritually.”
Nick Hamilton, a senior member of BYX, said the philanthropy also allows TCU participants to learn about the unfortunate situations these kids come from and see exactly where their donations are going.
Baca said he thinks the event makes the fraternity’s philanthropy efforts stand out.
“I love having the kids come to TCU’s campus. I think that our philanthropy is so unique because of this aspect,” said Baca. “We have the opportunity to serve Fortress and serve the kids by directly involving them in the event.”
McKay Lu, a first-year pre-major and BYX member, is a mentor for a 10-year-old named Jonathan.
“I go to Fortress once a week, where I hang out with my mentee, Jonathan,” Lu said. “We play video games; we do some fun devotionals. We actually have the same birthday, so on our birthday we went to Chuck E. Cheese, which was a blast.”
Wednesday’s fort-building contest in the BLUU was just another opportunity for student mentors to connect with the kids from Fortress.
Tanya, age 8, was one of the girls who made forts with TCU students.
“I really like playing the games and making forts with my new TCU friends,” Tanya said, beaming with pride about her new fort. “We built the Leopard Fort today.”
Meagan Delozier, a junior sociology major and member of Pi Beta Phi, helped Tanya build her fort at the event.
“I liked this event because these are some amazing kids, such as Tanya, that have great potential,” Delozier said. “These kids have been laughing and smiling the entire time, which was so awesome to see.”
The judges for the fort-building event included Tommy Hankins, BYX chaplain; Dani Kocur, the director for Fortress; and two Fortress kids, Aryana and Jonathan.
“All of the forts created were really great, but it was [the Eta Iota Sigma sorority] who stood out on top with the basketball themed fort,” Baca said. Kappa Alpha Theta came in second and Sigma Kappa and Pi Phi tied for third.
BYX also raised $1,700 in donations for the event, which was given to Fortress, Baca said. The money goes toward purchasing outdoor play equipment, as well as materials necessary for the pre-school department.
Brendan Voss, a first-year member of BYX, said the event is rewarding in itself because the participants directly see how they are affecting the lives of these kids.
Baca said he already has some ideas for next year.
“Maybe next year we can incorporate some sort of battle aspect into the fort building, maybe water balloons,” Baca said. “But that might just be my inner 10-year-old speaking.”