In just a short time, Wolff has become a social media phenomenon with the help of her University of Wisconsin Oshkosh sorority sisters and other friends – both in real life (“IRL,” to the social-media aficionado) and online – from throughout the nation. People like Gov. Scott Walker and Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver are among the leaders and celebrities that came out to support Wolff online.
Wolff, of McFarland, who learned she had cancer during her freshman year at UW Oshkosh is now at the center of a #BiebsMeetAly campaign, which was aimed at connecting superstar Justin Bieber and Wolff before an upcoming concert in the Chicago area. A Chicago radio station caught wind of the campaign and is now facilitating the meeting Saturday, Dec. 15; Wolff and her thousands of supporters learned of the news on Dec. 11, which was her 20th birthday.
“This is important because it really showed me the power of sisterhood,” said Stephanie Rodriguez, a senior studying human services and vice president of membership development for UW Oshkosh’s Panhellenic Association. “Each of our chapter members, including those who have never met Aly before, were showing their support and this reaffirmed my reasons for going Greek in the first place. I think this shows how close of a community we have.”
Wolff was involved with Gamma Phi Beta during her time at UW Oshkosh. She learned of her liver cancer earlier this year, according to a YouTube video her friends produced to share her story with anyone who would listen. Wolff is now focused on fighting her cancer through treatment. She eventually hopes to return to UW Oshkosh.
While fighting cancer is no easy feat, Wolff remains optimistic.
“I’ve had days where I’ve been mad and asked, ‘Why me?’ especially once people started going back to school in the fall but then I realized that these are the cards I’ve been dealt and I have to deal with it,” Wolff said. “The future will be better.”
For Wolff, the dedication shown by her sorority at UW Oshkosh to help her meet Bieber has helped her stay positive.
“It’s almost like a family. I think it’s pretty cool that no matter which sorority or fraternity you’re involved with they are all going to have your back,” she said.
Angie Zemke, UW Oshkosh Panhellenic Association program adviser, said she thinks the movement to support Wolff definitely shows what can happen when people band together.
“It was amazing to watch the power of sisterhood and brotherhood,” Zemke said.
The Facebook page in support of Wolff has more than 13,000 “likes.” On Twitter, the campaign has been a similar sensation: endless retweets including #biebsmeetaly and a spectrum of social media users helping make Wolff’s dream come true. Her story is also being shared on networks like YouTube and Tumblr.
“I have really good friends that started all of this for me and I’m incredibly thankful for everyone whose taken the time to tweet,” Wolff said. “I’m really happy.”
UW Oshkosh student Lindsey Tyson was among those on campus who got involved to make Wolff’s wish come true. Tyson reached out to celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Bieber himself and Green Bay Packers players to solicit their help in spreading the message, she said.
“Members of the community flooded their Twitter accounts and we soon found brothers and sisters from other campuses caught on to what we were trying to do and helped, too,” said Tyson, who is involved in a UW Oshkosh sorority. “We all suspected Gamma Phi Betas from other campuses would help out; I remember seeing the first picture of sisters of mine from another campus who never met Aly or knew who she was helping out and was in complete awe by this act. Helping Aly helped to make our community stronger and realize what we can achieve, but most importantly, it helped to make Aly’s dream come true.”
Tyson said many times it is a small community of determined individuals who “will be what makes changes in the world.”
“A lot of people don’t understand what a Greek community does,” said Ashley Hill, a senior studying marketing and sales and one of Wolff’s sorority sisters at UW Oshkosh. “We are here to create bonds with our sisters and brothers as well as strive for excellence in school. I believe all of this support has made Aly’s wish come true and it’s a real testament to how much people care about her.”
UW Oshkosh student Tyler Volkert agreed. He feels passionately about the power of a community – the Greek community – when it comes together.
“We all join separate fraternities or sororities but at the end of the day we do all that we can to help a fellow Greek in need. I think this has been a wonderful opportunity to show the Oshkosh community and the community at large that Greeks are leaders, scholars, philanthropists and friends,” said Volkert, who is the vice president of membership development for the Interfraternity Council. “It also shows what the power of social media and networking can do when there is a goal in mind.”