It was hard to miss the pink balloons and pink streamers speckling the Hard Knox Café early last week. You may have also noticed a number of Knox students decked out in shades of pink Friday. These events were not an early celebration of Valentine’s Day, they were all part of APO’s Week for Pinky.
Joann Gibbons, nicknamed Pinky the Powderpuff Kid by her grandfather, has worked at Knox for forty-two years. When Gibbons’s brother Mike Keith lost his legs to diabetes related to gangrene, she responded immediately, reaching out to everyone and anyone she could.
“We just couldn’t get anybody to help,” said Gibbons, who contacted sources from local television networks to politicians. Gibbons’s requests were awarded little, if any response.
That is, until junior Lauren Peretz, long time Gizmo employee and member of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, became aware of Gibbons’s struggle. Peretz refers to Gibbons as “her mom at school.” Four days a week, the two opened the Gizmo together and chatted about whatever was on their minds. When Gibbons told Peretz about her brother and the unanswered letter to WQAD, Peretz hatched a plan. She asked Gibbons to forward the letter to all of APO, and the fraternity took it from there.
“When I told her about the fundraisers, I could literally see the weight lifting off her shoulders,” said Peretz, who still communicates with Gibbons via Facebook though she is studying abroad.
During fall term of 2008, APO’s pledge class decided to raise money for Gibbon’s brother by holding a carnival and an open mic to raise funds to increase the accessibility of wheelchair-bound Keith’s residence. Within weeks, a ramp was located and Peretz herself applied for a building permit to attach it to Keith’s home. A group of APO members assisted with the installation process.
“Now we’re working to make his bathroom more accessible,” said Kate Mackin, one of three chairs of APO’s Pinky committee.
Last week APO sponsored four events, all of which directly benefit Gibbons’s brother. On Monday the organization decorated the Hard Knox Cafe with pale pink balloons and crepe paper, on Thursday donations were accepted at Jazz Night, on Friday students were encouraged to “Wear Pink for Pinky,” and Saturday’s mild weather was ideal for APO’s “Snowball Fight for Pinky.” Supplemental to APO’s fundraisers, donations for Gibbons were accepted at Sigma Chi’s Jock Jams party.
“We wanted to have a familiar theme that we’d done before so we’d have higher attendance,” explained Sigma Chi president senior Sam Jarvis.
Both members of APO and Sigma Chi are proud to be involved with a cause that not only benefits a member of the Knox community, but a member of the Galesburg community as well.
“It’s been really gratifying,” said junior Elyse Callahan.
Freshman Kate Mackin spoke admirably of the Knox community’s support system.
“A lot of people don’t know who she is, they just know that her brother’s suffering,” said Mackin.
A few members of APO have had the opportunity to meet Gibbons’s family and experience their gratitude personally.
“Pinky and her brother were at the open mic and it was a really touching moment,” recalled senior Anjali Pattanayak, another APO member. “You could tell it meant a lot to them.”
Gibbons’s brother, who recently donated a chess set to the Gizmo’s collection of games, “gets tears in his eyes” when reminded of all that the Knox community has done for him, said Gibbons. Auxiliary to the school’s help, Keith recently received a power chair for free through the Scooter Store’s Gift of Mobility program. The family is incredibly thankful for the kindness of those at Knox and elsewhere.
APO made $174.00 during the Week for Pinky, but they put no limit on the amount of money they will raise for this particular cause. In fact, they’re planning another open mic event for Gibbons later this term.