CASA raises awareness about group, cancer

43079_kmp_fea_casabbq_033011f2.jpgBy Alethia Kasben
Kat Petersen | The State News
Special education senior Nikki Atchoo laughs as she takes her turn at grilling Wednesday at BD’s Mongolian Grill, 2080 W. Grand River Ave., in Okemos.

An MSU cultural organization held a fundraiser for 150 people Wednesday to help fund an event supporting cancer victims and survivors.

Chaldean American Student Association, or CASA, members grilled food at BD’s Mongolian Grill, 2080 W. Grand River Ave., in Okemos, where it received $1 for every person who mentioned CASA, tips given to them for grilling and all proceeds from baked goods they sold in the restaurant, said accounting senior William Mansour, president of CASA.

The money it raised will be given to MSU Relay for Life, to be held on April 15 at Ralph Young Field.

“We hope that we impact the community,” Mansour said. “We just want to help a good cause and represent MSU well at Relay for Life.”

CASA is about 5 years old and has 25 active members. The members are Chaldean — Christian Arabs, usually from Baghdad, said physiology and psychology junior Julian Thwainey, webmaster for CASA.

Video: Cooking for a Cause … “Since Detroit is the number one area (in the country) where Chaldeans live, it’s important
we raise awareness here,” he said.

The assistant manager of BD’s Mongolian Grill, Steve Lee, said having guest grillers is a fun way to help the community.

“It’s something we can do to help out,” he said. “We have guest grillers as often as we can.”

Communication sophomore Melyssa Dickow transferred from Oakland University and joined CASA to keep close with her culture.

“I am often told I am the whitest Chaldean people know — I am very Americanized,” she said. “I joined so I could embrace my culture and enhance those traditions within myself.”

Dickow said she was excited and nervous to grill.

“It’s a new experience,” she said. “I hope I don’t fling hot food on anyone.”

Nikki Atchoo, vice president of CASA and a special education senior, said the group has been trying to raise awareness for themselves all semester.

“We want to promote Chaldeans on campus,” she said. “We want to raise awareness about our culture and who Chaldeans are.”

Media and communication technology sophomore P.J. Klebba came to dinner to help the group’s cause.

“I’m here to support my roommate, who is a member of CASA,” he said. “It’s a good cause they’re promoting, so I wanted to come and donate my time.”

CASA faces many obstacles as a small and relatively new group and tries to put on a lot of different events to keep members coming back and having fun, Mansour said.

“Being a cultural and minority group, it’s so hard getting and keeping consistent attendees,” he said. “Then getting out in the public and promoting our group and our causes is challenging.”