Diego Levenfeld's Experience with Connect and Serve

ALS Community
ALS Families

Phi Delta Theta has a long history of having its members participate in community service and demonstrate philanthropic values. Specifically, getting involved with the Live Like Lou Foundation to help leave ALS better than we found it. Each year, chapters are working on earning the Triple Crown award. To be awarded the prestigious award from Live Like Lou, Phi Delta Theta chapters must complete the following:

1. Register to serve an ALS family.
2. Become an Iron Phi Chapter.
3. Generate awareness and support for Lou Gehrig's disease by hosting a philanthropy event in their community and donating to the Live Like Lou Foundation. 

This award is not for the faint of heart. In 2023, the Live Like Lou Foundation awarded twenty-four Phi Delta Theta chapters with this honor. 

For Phi Delt Philanthropy Chair Diego Levenfeld and the California Psi Chapter at Loyola Marymount University, it's less about awards and accolades but the chance to impact those with ALS. Going above and beyond, they serve not one but TWO of the ALS families registered through Live Like Lou's Connect and Serve Program. 

Diego and his fraternity brothers with the Reyna family.

Having just joined Phi Delta Theta last semester, Diego immediately stepped into the Philanthropy Chair role and got to work. Despite being a new member, his determination to make a difference was evident. "I'm loving the role so far. It's a lot of work, but it's rewarding work." 

After he submitted the Connect and Serve volunteer form, Laura Peterson, Live Like Lou's Program and Engagement Director, matched the Phi Delt chapter with Kathy Troeger, who has been living with ALS since 2017, and her family. "After I registered, Laura reached out to me pretty immediately and said that we matched with someone in the area. She did a great job logistically of setting me up to succeed," Diego expressed.  

Diego presented the opportunity to his chapter to see who was interested and get volunteers. "It was kind of hard because I wasn't expecting so many people to be interested. It wasn't something where I wanted to bring the whole chapter. I wanted the ALS family to be comfortable, so I only grabbed a couple of guys." 

In terms of the coordination and logistics? "It took a couple of weeks but was faster than I thought and moved very quickly. I liked that. I wanted to meet the family and get going as soon as possible."

Their first encounter with the Troeger family profoundly impacted Diego and his three fraternity brothers. The day was filled with emotions as they completed their designated service project, hanging paintings and organizing the garage. Throughout the day, Kathy shared her story and snippets of their life, even sharing photo albums. 

"It worked out really well. With only four of us, she was able to meet every one of us. We talked for a long time, which was great, and it was more personal than having ten guys volunteering." 

Diego shared that Kathy's resilience and spirit deeply moved everyone. "It was a day full of different emotions. I haven't met anyone with ALS previously, and neither have a lot of my brothers. It was very touching; she was so loving, caring, and passionate about her family. She was full of life even in the later stages of ALS. She just really moved us. It's hard to put into words." 

Despite the challenges faced, Kathy's zest for life still shines through. "She showed us a lot of her earlier life and photo albums. It's very sad to see what she's leaving behind and her past life, but also very motivating because she's as active as she can be, and she shared she lives vicariously through her three daughters. It was amazing to hear that she's still doing great with the circumstances she's in now." 

Emphasizing that this wasn't the last time they would see the Troegers, Diego shared plans and excitement about continuing the relationship with the family. Later this month, they will teach Kathy's daughter to ride a bicycle, something she intended to do before her ALS progressed. 

Diego said that the decision to take on another ALS family through Connect and Serve was immediate. "We had such a good experience, and after I reported everything back to our chapter, they said, let's keep going and send more people. I got a good response, which I expected, but our president was adamant we should continue doing this because it means so much." Reflecting on the conversation with his brothers, "it was this immediate, yes, let's do it again. Diego, get on it." 

Get on it, he did. Diego reached back out to Laura Peterson and was connected with the Reyna family. The chapter's second ALS family they serve. 

Diego's advice to any other Philanthropy Chairs or those interested in participating in the Connect and Service Program? "It means so much, and if you can do it and have the opportunity, you should 100% do it." 

Loyola Marymount University Phi Delts teaching Kirra to ride a bike.

In partnership with Lou Gehrig's Fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, Live Like Lou has hundreds of volunteers throughout North America who have registered to serve ALS families in their community. If your family has a project you'd like help tackling in/around your home, register for Connect and Serve today, and we'll get to work on finding volunteers. 

Interested in serving an ALS family in your area? Phi Delts can register here. Not a Phi Delt, but you'd like to serve an ALS family? We'd love to work with you!

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