The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Blackjack, dancing and drinks: All in the name of charity at Phi Delt Casino

Looking out at the InterContinental Grand Ballroom, noticing blackjack and crap tables scattered the room, a packed dance floor as the centerpiece, FLASH photographers in their usual red polos mixed among guests and college co-eds dressed in cocktail dresses and tuxedos mingling, one might think this was an over-the-top SMU shindig.

But $43,000 raised in the name of cancer research – that is over the top, marking one of the most successful philanthropic fundraising events in SMU history. Another way the event shatters the mold? It is hosted by a fraternity.

While SMU-associated swanky socials are the norm, Casino Night is extra special, according to Phi Delta Theta President, Hays Mabry.

“The night is special for all the obvious reasons – blackjack, dancing, and socializing,” he said. “But it’s so much more – it’s our chance to give back in a big way and this year, it was especially meaningful.”

Mabry explained that an active fraternity member lost his father to cancer just last year. The fraternity will give $25,000 of the $43,000 raised to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, where his father was treated.

“It hit all of us so hard,” Mabry said of the member’s loss. “We realized the true meaning of Casino Night: to raise money for cancer research. It took a death within our fraternity family to fully realize and appreciate the scope of our work.”

The senior Phi Delt who suffered the loss of his father defines the most memorable moment of the night as “walking in the door and seeing the ballroom full of people. And at that moment I felt very proud to be part of this fraternity.”

The support felt by his fraternity does not end there. He raised $2,000 in his Phi Delt Relay for Life team over the weekend, all in celebration of his father’s life.

His dad was also a Phi Delt and attended Casino Night back in the ’70s.

“If he were there last Saturday, he would have enjoyed untying his bowtie and hitting the dance floor,” the active said with a chuckle. “No, but seriously he loved to talk to all of my friends, jokingly giving them a hard time…I think that he would have just enjoyed the company.”

The event’s impact was personally felt by more than just one active fraternity member. Travis Rachal, a sophomore, served as Casino Chair. Rachal lost his mother to breast cancer when he was 4 years old.

“I wanted to make sure to raise as much as possible-in memory of her,” he said. “It felt really good to do something so positive.”

Additional donations included a $6,000 gift to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and $10,000 to SMU.

Casino Night unites more than just the SMU Texas Delta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta. Phi Delts from Washington and Lee, Texas Tech, Ole Miss, TCU and University of Tennessee joined their fellow brothers to show support for a philanthropy that holds meaning to so many.

Along with the ‘band of brothers,’ Phi Delt alumni, Dallasites and SMU students packed the dance floor – 2,000 attendees to be exact.

For Rachal, “seeing everyone come together for the same cause while dancing and having fun was very memorable.”

Mabry adds, “Casino is unlike any other event at SMU. It connects Phi Delt, SMU, Dallas and beyond.”

“A little bit softer now. A little bit softer now. A little bit softer now…” As the song came to a close, the night represented yet another new beginning for Phi Delta Theta. A loud and clear message: their duty to carry on this annual event for the duration of their Chapter’s existence while bringing SMU an evening to remember – with a newfound tenacity and commitment.

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