“Weather permitting and safety permitting, we have someone up on the pole at all times… what we go through is nothing compared to the kind of things that the people we’re trying to help have to deal with.”
Sitting in a chair atop a 14-foot pole for 30 hours may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but members of the Phi Delta Theta (PDT) fraternity have been doing it for Emporia State Homecoming for the past 27 years.
“You would be shocked how far you can see. You can actually see…pretty much to the other end of Emporia, all the way down Commercial St.,” said Matthew Crome, senior information systems management major and current president of the Emporia chapter of PDT. “You do feel very odd as the cars come by because it’s just a lot of attention on you, but you hope everyone knows what you’re doing.”
Crome said that only about one out of four people know why they are sitting on the pole, which is to raise money for SOS, an organization that provides help and support to women and children suffering from physical and emotional abuse.
The event starts at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning at the corner of 12th and Commercial St. and ends at noon on Saturday. Members take three hour shifts sitting on the pole. They accept donations from people passing by, which go directly to SOS.
As far as safety of this venture goes, Crome said that the fraternity has a base for the pole that covers three feet of it and holds it steady. A ladder is provided by the university so that members can climb to the seat on top.
Doug Porter, sophomore history education major and secretary of PDT, said he was worried before his first time pole sitting.
“You’d think that a chair (sitting) on top of a pole would be kind of not safe, but it was actually pretty comfortable,” Porter said. “It actually didn’t really move all that much…it was quite sturdy.”
Ben Reilly, senior music education and performance major, said that he remembers one particular memory from pole sitting.
“We were sitting up there one year, and it was cold. It was down pouring rain, the wind was blowing, it was raining sideways and it was, like, 3 in the morning,” Reilly said. “It doesn’t sound like a very good memory, but that’s one of the ones I remember the most just because (of) the unity of the people out there providing the support for people who really need it.”
The tradition of pole sitting originated from monks meditating while sitting on poles for hours on end, but using it to raise awareness for a cause originated some 30 years ago by a man called Shipwreck Kelly. PDT chose to start doing it to get publicity, and SOS was chosen because it was a local organization.
“Weather permitting and safety permitting, we have someone up on the pole at all times because our view on it is – if it gains attention and it brings people to be more aware of the dangers of domestic violence and the work that SOS does, then it’s worth it to be uncomfortable for a little while,” Crome said. “What we go through is nothing compared to the kind of things that the people we’re trying to help have to deal with.”