Nevada’s Lincoln Highway Days parade got a lot bigger on Aug. 26 when a group of students from Iowa State utilized the opportunity to spread awareness about ovarian cancer. They were in the parade last year, but this year, they were very noticeable with their numbers.

In all, 130 Iowa State students walked in the parade as the FarmHouse Fraternity and the Delta Zeta Sorority members passed out 5,500 informational bookmarks that detail the symptoms of “the silent killer.”

“I would say the people of Nevada were surprised to see such a large crowd of participants for a single entry, especially all the ‘college-aged’ kids on a Saturday morning,” said Josh Schmitz, a member of FarmHouse Fraternity and the son of Nevada resident, David Schmitz, who many know as the food service director for the Nevada Schools. Josh said, however, that volunteerism is contagious for their group, as they see their numbers for these types of things increasing.

“Our group provided a lot of positivity and excitement throughout the route, which made for a great experience for all,” Josh said, adding that women they interacted with along the parade route seemed appreciative of the educational message the group was trying to spread about ovarian cancer.

Josh and his family know all too well the devastation of the disease. “My step-mother, Brenda Schmitz, passed away from stage four ovarian cancer back in 2011,” he said. “Since then, my immediate and extended family have decided to become involved in the Iowa Chapter of National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC). The Schmitz family is involved in parades and the annual run/walk hosted in West Des Moines at Raccoon River Park.

Josh got his fraternity involved in awareness about NOCC, and the boys paired with the Delta Zeta sorority through his cousin, Jesse Proehl, who belongs to that sorority and was a niece of Brenda.

The idea to first walk in the Lincoln Highway Days parade came from David. “My dad and I were talking about the Lincoln Highway Days parade. Having done Fourth of July and Des Moines community parades in the past with my high school football team (at Dowling), we thought it would be a great idea to incorporate members of my fraternity and Jesse’s sorority (to walk in the Nevada parade).”

“The most fun was the ability to blend service with social,” Josh said.

Josh, a second year member of the FarmHouse Fraternity, who is a mechanical engineering major, hopes to some day be a project manager for a general contractor. He believes that service among young people is important as a way that they can look beyond themselves. “It’s important to gain perspective and an appreciation for the world around us,” he said. “This world has limitless opportunities available to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. All you have to do is find a cause you have passion in or have a personal connection with and run with it.” Or walk, as the case was in the recent parade.

Other things the members of FarmHouse Fraternity are involved with include: highway cleanup, dance marathon (last year 35 members raised $11,000), Burritoville philanthropy (they’ve raised over $15,000 in the past three years benefiting Children’s Cancer Connection), Feed the Need (they’ve donated over 9,000 pounds to Mid-Iowa Community Action in the past three years), Called to be Bald (30 shaved heads and over $9,000 raised in the last two years benefiting Be the Match and Leukemia Lymphoma Society), 30 Youth Standing Strong (through YSS) weekly volunteers and mentors in Gilbert and the Collins-Maxwell school districts (1,900 service hours completed last spring semester) and the Ames CROP Walk (over $5,000 raised by FarmHouse members last year benefiting local and global hunger).

Delta Zeta, Josh said, has among its causes, DZ Dogs Philanthropy (benefiting the Starkey Hearing Foundation) and Pie the Prez Philanthropy (benefiting troops overseas).

Together, this fraternity/sorority pair participates with Special Olympics of Iowa’s Polar Bear Plunge (raising over $370,000 in 2017, $284,000 in 2016 by the Greek community).

“Throughout the year, all sororities and fraternities are supportive of each others’ philanthropies by donating and attending,” Josh said.

He looks for the big group to be back for Lincoln Highway Days next year, and he looks for his fraternity and its partner sorority to be among the youth organizations that keep looking at the big picture in terms of service.

“Performing service is infectious. Once you start, it makes it hard to stop. Not to mention all the personal skills and leadership attributes you can pick up and apply in other avenues of life.” He ends by quoting Nelson Mandela, “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others, without expecting anything in return.”