Did you know that more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined? The statistics are startling, but awareness and support for finding a cure is the key message behind Alpha Xi Delta’s campus-wide AmaXIng Challenge benefiting Autism Speaks. Last year’s efforts earned the sorority special recognition as one of the top fundraising teams in San Diego for Autism Speaks.

“At Autism Speaks, we value our partnership with Alpha Xi Delta immensely, not only for their dedication and passion to serve, but also for the insight and exposure they bring to a new generation of leaders in our community regarding autism awareness, treatment, research and advocacy,” said Brian Han, regional events director for Autism Speaks.

Hosted annually on campus, the AmaXIng Challenge brings together several diverse student organizations at CSUSM to compete in a week of friendly contests designed to increase awareness and raise funds for Autism Speaks, the main philanthropy Alpha Xi Delta supports. Last year’s inaugural challenge generated more than $6700 with the help of 11 student clubs, each vying for the title of Xi Champions.

“The challenge is not just about Greek life, it’s about bringing the university together to spread awareness and make a difference,” said Donna Loya, president of the Theta Rho chapter of Alpha Xi Delta at CSUSM.

This year’s challenge kicks off on Saturday September 10, at the starting line of the Walk Now for Autism Speaks in Point Loma, followed by a week of events including the sorority’s very own “Step it Up” Walk through the campus on Tuesday, a talent show on Wednesday, and an energetic relay day on Thursday complete with balloon tosses and pie-eating contests. The AmaXIng Challenge will conclude on Friday with the sorority’s signature banquet dinner and silent auction hosted in the Dome, where the Xi Champion team will be announced.

While generating financial support for Autism Speaks is a focus of the AmaXIng Challenge which aims to raise $8,000 this year, education and awareness are priority, according to Loya. Each event incorporates education or advocacy to help participants and the campus community better understand autism and its prevalence, which continues to grow at staggering rates. Today, autism affects one in every 110 children, and one in 70 boys.

In addition to the weeklong festivities, the women of Alpha Xi Delta, which now has 86 members, help to support, advocate and volunteer for Autism Speaks throughout the year. The sorority also supports other philanthropic efforts like the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life held each spring on the Mangrum Track and Field on campus. Alpha Xi Delta’s commitment to Autism Speaks caught the attention of the sorority’s headquarters which honored the Cal State San Marcos chapter with one of the organization’s highest awards last year, the Order of the Quill.

“Our continued hope is that through the AmaXIng Challenge and the efforts of Alpha Xi Delta, our campus and our surrounding communities will be more informed and involved in speaking up about autism,” added Loya.

Student organizations, campus groups and individuals can still sign up to participate in the second annual AmaXIng Challenge by visiting Alpha Xi Delta’s website.

“The challenge is not just about Greek life, it’s about bringing the University together to spread awareness and make a difference,” said Donna Loya, president of the Theta Rho chapter of Alpha Xi Delta at CSUSM.