The Chi Beta Epsilon sorority and its members held a Rooftop Balloon Vigil last Friday, Nov. 2, at 8 p.m. on the roof of Verna McLean Residence Hall. The event was open to all members of the Trinity community. The goal of this gathering was to raise funds for and bring awareness to domestic abuse and to honor the memory of Cayley Mandadi — a Trinity student and Beta sorority member who died last year.
According to Joann Hamer, sophomore and current term president of Chi Beta Epsilon, the San Antonio Rape Crisis Center is the sorority’s primary philanthropic cause. The center has been their philanthropic focus for more than four years. All donations of money and materials, such as toiletries, were collected to provide support for survivors and victims of domestic abuse. In exchange for their donations, attendees were given biodegradable balloons to be released during the ceremony.
“On the balloons, they can write a message to someone who they know has been affected by domestic violence. We are trying to pay memorial to Cayley, but we’re also trying to raise awareness for how common domestic violence is on college campuses,” Hamer said.
At the vigil, various members of the Trinity community gathered — from alumni to current faculty and students. Both those who did and did not know Mandadi came to pay their respects.
“Others who are here knew her personally and loved her. I wasn’t fortunate enough to know her, but I’m here to show respect to these students and to her,” said Deborah Tyson, director of Residential Life, during the event.
The first part of the vigil consisted of collecting resources and toiletry supplies, which also gave attendees the opportunity to converse with one another. The event provided refreshments and Cayley’s favorite food according to the Betas: mozzarella sticks. This was followed by a brief yet poignant speech by a few of the event organizers. They thanked the community’s donations and support and addressed the importance of raising awareness of domestic abuse.
Attendees were then asked to participate in a moment of silence. Then, on the count of three, attendees released their balloons — annotated with personal messages — into the night sky.
“[This event places] emphasis on the community and support we have here. Whenever there’s a crisis, it’s just a reminder that you can reach out to anyone, to Trinity students,” said sophomore Sam Gustafsson. “[It’s about] trying to ensure you have a safe space to be who you are.”
With this month marking a year since Cayley’s death, many students were overcome with emotion as they attended the vigil and remembered her. As several attendees highlighted, the vigil also served to show solidarity in the community.
For students who were unable to attend the vigil or show their support for the cause, Hamer added that everyone is welcome to join Chi Beta Epsilon and their brother fraternity — the Bengal Lancers — for their annual chili cook-off on Friday, Nov. 9. It will also support the Rape Crisis Center, and one of the center’s representatives will be present to give a speech.