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Zeta Upsilon and Childhelp: A Lasting Legacy

Zeta Upsilon members and alumni during an early visit of the chapter to the Childhelp Headquarters

Sara O’Meara believes it was a higher power that led to her life’s mission – rescuing children from a life of abuse and neglect. Joined on the journey by her lifelong best friend, Yvonne Fedderson, the two Hollywood actresses founded Childhelp six decades ago and set out to change the world.

“It started as a flicker of light…not a flood light to see the whole path,” said O’Meara, who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., where Childhelp is based. “We took each step, never planning the next, and followed diligently where God led us.”

Childhelp was founded in 1959 by O’Meara and Fedderson to address child abuse through assistance, resources, and safe spaces for children. Today, Childhelp has helped break the cycle of abuse and neglect for more than 12 million children – and counting.

But the work never ends. Every year, more than four million referrals are made to child protection agencies in the United States. Childhelp and Sigma Nu Fraternity are focused on changing those statistics.

The Zeta Upsilon Chapter at Arizona State University is the flagship chapter for Childhelp, donating more than one million dollars to the charity over three decades. The relationship was forged through legacy, tragedy, and a chapter commitment to helping abused and neglected children find their light.

The connection between Childhelp and the ASU chapter goes beyond volunteer service projects and events that raise money and awareness for Childhelp. O’Meara is a proud mother and grandmother to Sigma Nu members who served as chapter officers at ASU and championed Childhelp's cause.

“Since the [late 1980’s], Sigma Nu has raised money for Childhelp, making a huge difference in the lives of children,” said O’Meara. “That giving never stops [even] well beyond the college years as alumni.”

Rescuing the Unwanted Children

Sara O'Meara visits with children at an orphanage in Tokyo, Japan.

It was the storyline for a Hollywood movie – and a half-century later, it would be. However, in 1957 on a cold, rainy night in Tokyo, it was real life.

O’Meara and Fedderson were on a benefit tour to entertain American troops when they came across a group of children huddled for warmth under a fallen awning.

These were the “throwaway children,” often the result of liaisons between American servicemen and Japanese women, and unwelcome in either culture. The easy thing for O’Meara and Fedderson would be to look away, keep walking, and pray for intervention from others.

“But we knew better,” O’Meara said. “We had to make sure they had shelter, food, clothes, and the love every child should have.”

They took the children back to their hotel rooms, caring for them through the night, then finding a temporary home the following day. As the number of orphans outgrew the home, the women leaned on their network of connections to raise funds. And with the help of the Marines, orphanages were built in Japan, and later in Vietnam.

That initial act of kindness established Childhelp, now an international organization committed to preventing child abuse and neglect and supporting victims.

A Lifetime Commitment to Caring

Children gather in front of the cottage named in honor of Zeta Upsion Brother Charles "Chuck" Hopkins.

O’Meara said she and Fedderson never imagined where their lives would lead. After overseeing an evacuation of orphans after the Vietnam conflict, “Operation Babylift,” they considered their mission accomplished.

“We thought that would be the end of it,” O’Meara recalls, “We had returned home, married, and had families of our own by then.”

But it was just the beginning.

First Lady Nancy Reagan reached out to Childhelp, urging it to address child abuse in the United States.

O’Meara and Fedderson took on the challenge, hosting a telethon to raise money and awareness. They opened a residential village for abused children — the first of its kind – followed by more group homes and a national hotline to report abuse.

Over the years, O’Meara has been recognized for her work with Childhelp by U.S. Presidents and the Queen of England. Her many honors include the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award, Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the President's Volunteer Action Award, and a two-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 2006, the movie “For the Love of a Child” was released, bringing the story of Childhelp to a global audience.

A Lasting Link to Sigma Nu

John Charles Hopkins (Left), with Zeta Upsilon Chapter delegation, presents a check to Childhelp.

In a life filled with accomplishments and accolades, O’Meara endured her greatest heartbreak in 1988. Her son, Charles Hopkins, died in a traffic accident during Homecoming Weekend at ASU less than one month before graduation.

Hopkins was an officer in Sigma Nu and had introduced Childhelp to the chapter.

“Sigma Nu raised money for Childhelp all during the four years before Charles died,” O’Meara said. “After he died, the Fraternity raised money for a cottage at the Childhelp Village, and we named that cottage after him.”

Her son’s impact continues through her grandson, John Charles Hopkins, who pledged Sigma Nu at ASU in 2018 and recently graduated with his Master’s degree from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

“My Uncle Chuck was so influential to the chapter and his memory lives on,” said Hopkins, who served as student body president at ASU. “Our ‘brother of the year’ award is named after him, and alumni from his era often give talks to the chapter about how to be like Chuck.”

Hopkins cannot remember a time when he was not involved with Childhelp, through volunteering, fundraising, and attending events.

At ASU, he continued the work started by his uncle, helping establish the chapter’s annual fall philanthropy week, known as “Sigma Boo and Dancing with the SNUs. Hopkins also founded the XHunger chapter at ASU to address food insecurity in the community.

“The most significant aspect of philanthropy is self-reflection, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose,” said Hopkins, who served a term on the Fraternity’s High Council. “Childhelp has given the chapter opportunities to see the impact of our giving.”

Setting a Philanthropy Example

Zeta Upsilon brothers dressed up for their annual Sigma Boo event. Combined with Dancing with the SNUs, Zeta Upsilon raised $35,000 for Childhelp in Fall 2022.

Brother Dominic Frattura, who graduated from ASU in 2022 and earned his Master’s degree from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in May, said the chapter’s commitment to Childhelp is a lifetime connection for him.

“I plan to stay involved in both Sigma Nu and Childhelp, continuing to contribute my time, effort, and resources to further their shared mission,” said Frattura, president of the Childhelp Arizona Young Professionals chapter.

A close friend of the O’Meara family, Frattura hopes the Zeta Upsilon Chapter’s support of Childhelp will model how chapters can get involved in the Fraternity’s Helping Hand Initiative.

“I encourage other chapters to develop a strong connection to their philanthropy and, if they don't have one, consider supporting Childhelp,” said Frattura.

© 2015-2022 Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.
9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-1869 | Fax: (540) 463-1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

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