PHOENIX — When Taylor Dintzner and other members of Arizona State University’s Phi Gamma Delta fraternity reached out to alumni about charity ideas for the school year, they were alerted to the name of a former member — Jim Harris.
Harris had quite the résumé.
He was a member of Phi Gamma Delta, also known as FIJI, in the early 1970s and worked his way up to vice president of business development for Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute before retiring in September 2019.
Unfortunately, Harris’ retirement was short.
He died of ALS, also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in June 2020. Harris was 67.
“Before he passed away, he had a wish that all of the gifts and contributions and memorial of him would be donated directly right to TGen’s Center for Rare Childhood Disorders,” Dintzner, FIJI president, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.
Dintzner and FIJI knew they had to honor the final wish of their fraternity brother.
They created the “Shave to Save” fundraiser as a way to raise money and personally get involved in the fundraising.
As part of it, 47 of the 75 FIJI members agreed to shave their heads to raise awareness — and funds — for Harris and TGen.
The effort resulted in $58,000 raised between Nov. 1 and Nov. 14, the day the fraternity members took the plunge and buzzed their heads. Watch video coverage here.
The total has swelled to more than $61,000 and the hope is to hit $75,000. The original goal was $30,000.
The fundraiser was the largest monetary total for a fraternity in ASU history, according to Dintzner.
“I think the biggest thing I learned and other brothers in our chapters learned is that we’re very fortunate to be in the position we are in,” Dintzner said.
“It’s our responsibility to give back and improve the lives of others and support this organization that truly does give a positive impact to children who need it.”
The connection between FIJI and TGen extends past Harris.
Seth Belnap was diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder at TGen’s Center. Belnap’s cousin, Braeden, is a FIJI member.
Harris’ own 15-year-old grandson, Harris, was also diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy and received care at the Center.
Donations are scheduled to remain open until Nov. 30 but could be extended later in the year, according to Dintzner.
The donation page is available online.