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Fraternity goes 'pink' to fight breast cancer

On Monday, Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity chapters on U.S. college campuses started selling "Real Men Wear Pink" T-shirts in hopes of raising thousands of dollars for breast cancer research, and the whole project was conceived at the University of Kentucky.

Will Stahl, president of the Alpha Gamma Rho chapter at UK, said he hit on the idea of selling pink T-shirts for breast cancer last fall while trying to come up with a fraternity charity project.

Pink, of course, is the color used by many groups to support breast cancer research.

Stahl and his fraternity brothers developed two shirt designs — "Real Men Wear Pink" for guys, and "My Man Wears Pink" for girls — and sold 530 shirts to members of other UK Greek organizations in 2007. The chapter ultimately raised almost $2,700 for Susan G. Komen For the Cure, the organization dedicated to conquering breast cancer.

"This year, we wanted do it a little bigger," Stahl said. "So I got on the horn and tried calling all the AGR chapters in the country. Three aren't active yet, and I couldn't reach three others, which brought it down to 65.

"But all 65 chapters are going to participate, along with us at UK, and that's not too small."

Stahl has personal reasons for fighting breast cancer. His grandmother had breast cancer which spread and eventually took her life, and he knows others who have been touched by the illness.

To simplify things for the nationwide T-shirt sale, the shirts are being sold only online, and buyers anywhere in the country can go to one Web site to make purchases. All orders will come to the UK fraternity, which will have the shirts made by a Western Kentucky vendor and then ship them to buyers.

The shirts are $10 each and can be purchased by going to the Alpha Gamma Rho Web site, www.ukagr.com.

The sale runs through Sept. 26, and Stahl wants everybody who buys a T-shirt to wear it Oct. 22, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Stahl, 23, a senior from Elkton in Todd County, said it's pure guesswork as to how many T-shirts actually will be sold.

"Last year I would have been happy with selling 10, so when we sold 500 I was pretty much ecstatic," he said.

But Stahl noted that if each of the 65 participating chapters simply duplicates UK's score of roughly 500 T-shirts last year, a total of 32,500 shirts will be sold.

Meanwhile, Stahl said his own chapter aims to expand its T-shirt marketing to the entire UK campus this year, with a goal of selling as many 5,000 shirts to the student body.

That could raise the grand total to nearly 40,000 T-shirts nationwide, if things go as well as Stahl hopes.

He noted that organizers hope to send about 70 percent of proceeds to Susan G. Komen For The Cure, after expenses. At $10 a shirt, that could produce almost $250,000 for breast cancer research, he calculates.

To build support, Stahl has talked with UK President Lee Todd and sought help from the UK sports marketing team. He also plans presentations before UK's inter-fraternity council and the Pan Hellenic Association. He's also putting up posters around campus, as well as giving interviews to news organizations about the T-shirt sale.

Given Stahl's canny organizing of the campaign, you might assume he is majoring in marketing. But, while he has taken some marketing courses, his major actually is agriculture economics. (He spent the weekend back home in Todd County cutting tobacco.)

Nevertheless, Stahl admits he might have an inherited marketing flair.

"My grandfather was a born salesman who could sell anything," he said. "I'm nowhere in comparison to him. But when you have a cause like this one, it's not hard to sell.

"One out of every three women before they die will either have breast cancer or know someone who does. But it's a disease that is easy to catch if you check for it early, and it can be dealt with it if it's caught early.

"So, I think it's a pretty good cause."

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