Whitman College night of pageantry belies seriousness of effort

The annual Mr. Whitman competition set a record for fundraising, bringing in more than $45,000 for brain cancer research.

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WALLA WALLA - Eight senior Whitman men and the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority hosted Friday night's male beauty pageant Mr. Whitman, the capstone of a record-breaking fundraising effort.

This year, the event benefited the Chris Elliott Fund, a nonprofit organization that raises money for glioblastoma brain cancer research. Over six weeks, eight contestants planned fundraisers, which included a jazz performance at Sapolil Cellars, a wine auction and a head-shaving competition, among other silly and serious events.

"Some of the largest effort was through letter-writing campaigns," said contestant Ben Serrurier, who raised most of his money from private donations.

"Many local businesses contributed to contestants and the event, as well as students on campus and their families," he said. "It was a great community effort."

On Friday, the contestants were judged on five categories: fundraising, formal wear, swimwear, question-and-answer and a talent performance. Fundraising was heavily weighted in the final tally.

A highlight of the night was Joe Wheeler's ukulele performance of the Flaming Lips song "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," complete with backup singers from an on-campus a cappella group and a choreographed robot fight scene in the background. Wheeler received top scores from all four judges, one of whom was Tamara DePorter, a board member of the Chris Elliott Fund as well as holder of the title Mrs. Seattle. The performance helped Wheeler win the crown at the end of the evening.

Since 2002, the Chris Elliott Fund has raised more than $1 million for brain cancer awareness, advocacy and research. Glioblastoma accounts for nearly a quarter of primary brain tumors in the U.S. There is no known cure and a 12-15 month prognosis for survival. Dellann Elliott, the CEO and president of CEF, founded the nonprofit after her husband, Chris, died of the disease in 2002.

Whitman senior Julie Irvine connected Mr. Whitman with the Chris Elliott Fund in honor of her mother, who is battling the disease.

Irvine and Elliott were awarded the final check for more than $45,000, which shattered the record set last year. The money is earmarked for continued research of a promising new treatment.

Katrina Barlow can be reached at katrinabarlow@wwub.com.

how to help

More information can be found and donations made to the Chris Elliott Fund at www.chriselliotfund.org.

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