There’s a quote that a lot of us in sororities like to use: “From the outside looking in, you can never understand it. From the inside looking out, you can never explain it.” Maybe the boys aren’t as cheesy as we are, but it’s clear that the brothers of Beta Theta Pi understand it.
Tom Babb was a freshman at the University of Kansas and a pledge at Beta when he was injured in a body-surfing accident while on vacation with his family in Hawaii on December 27, 2015. Paralyzed from the neck down, Tom has been the hospital since then and missed, among other things, his initiation into the fraternity. But his brothers weren’t about to let that happen.
1 bus. 50 actives. 1 new Alpha Nu Beta. Welcome to the Hutt, Tom. pic.twitter.com/RkaKAQLpCI
— KU Beta Theta Pi (@KUBetaThetaPi) February 20, 2016
As that my eyes are a little bit too teary to see the keyboard, I will instead let Tommy’s sister, Claire, tell the story, as she did on the family’s Facebook page, Prayers for Tom Babb:
Two weeks ago, all of the boys that toiled through an entire semester of pledgeship with Tommy reached the light at the end of a long road and got initiated into the Alpha Nu chapter of Beta Theta Pi. Last semester (mind you, Tommy’s first semester of college), Tommy spent the semester running on minimal hours of sleep, cleaning the house, studying for hours a day, and doing countless other things that I have no interest in knowing about. We would go weeks without talking to him because he couldn’t talk on the phone. Well, as [a] protective big sister, I had had enough of that and I very quickly made the phone call to my mom, telling her that I think that it is her responsibility to tell him that he has no business being in a fraternity. Needless to say, I didn’t win that one. The end goal of all of this turmoil is to build an unbreakable brotherhood with these boys that is marked by initiation into the fraternity. When Tommy was 600 miles away in Kansas going through all of that, I was comforted in knowing that it would end in February and he would essentially become equal to these older brothers that were pushing him around so much. Well, after a little plot twist (hint: December 27, 2015), he was not able to join his pledge class in celebrating all of their hard work two weeks ago. I was at the hospital with him the night that all of the boys were going through initiation, and it broke my heart to watch texts flood in explaining the night and wishing he was there.
On Friday afternoon, 50 Beta brothers proved to me what their whole fraternity thing is all about. They sacrificed a weekend of studying and/or partying and drove 600 miles to come make sure that Tommy didn’t miss a beat. Yesterday morning, after leaving the hospital for only the second time in seven weeks, Tommy wheeled his way right back into the middle of the fraternity in the basement of a little brewery in Evergreen. I was expecting there to be a little lag time in adjusting to seeing this boy, whom they had been partying in their frat house with just months earlier, wheel himself in, completely paralyzed from the neck down. I’ll explain sappy details of the day later on, but the boys picked up right where they left off with Tommy. The day was filled with eating and drinking and laughing and singing absolutely ridiculous songs. We non-Betas were kicked out while my dad, his best friends (who are also Betas), Alpha Nu alumni, and these 50 awesome boys initiated Tommy into the brotherhood. The boys stuck around longer than planned to watch the rival Kansas State basketball game with us and then piled back onto their bus and headed home.
On the drive back to Craig, Tommy announced that that was the best day of his life. The boy has been paralyzed for seven weeks and just celebrated the best day he has had in 19 years. How the heck is that even possible?
First of all, it is possible because this fraternity brotherhood thing is the real deal. I have always scoffed at the idea and was particularly resentful of it last semester when these boys wanted to call my brother their brother, yet weren’t even letting him get adequate sleep. (I only say that because I have been an angel of an older sister and have never been mean to Tommy… NOT). Yesterday, I watched brother after brother get up and give a toast to Tommy, sharing stories about why they are proud to call him their brother. I watched these boys feed Tommy a juicy cheeseburger. When Tommy had to tip his wheelchair back every 15 minutes (medical protocol), the boys would slide their chairs back, too, just so they could keep talking to him. As a fraternity, they discussed what role they are going to play in getting Tommy back to the house. One brother is trying to become his caretaker in Kansas. Others are organizing a 5k in honor of kids like Tommy. The house representative (an Alpha Nu alumni) is working to renovate the house in order for Tommy to be able to live there with everything he needs. Anyone who got the chance to made an effort to reach out to our family with hugs and encouraging words. They all stuck around to help clean up the restaurant later, endlessly thanking (and even hugging) the staff. The way that these boys have touched my life and each other’s’ lives is one of the coolest and most beautiful things I have ever seen. Tommy’s new brothers are picking up slack that only family could pick up. They put a smile on his face bigger than any smile I have ever seen. Yesterday was a celebration of the fact that Tommy has stumbled into friendships that are going to forever change this journey for him. I am so proud and so grateful to be able to share my brother with brothers that love him in ways that I never could.
I have no words. For anyone who questions fraternity, this is what it is..
[via Beta Theta Pi]
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