Delta Tau Delta Fraternity steps up its fundraising efforts for a brother in need
The Zeta Zeta Chapter of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity at Morehead State University is no stranger to coming together to help those in need. When Cole Nickell (Morehead State University, 2021) arrived on campus from West Liberty for his freshman year in 2017, he joined Delt and built genuine relationships with his fraternity brothers.
"I was looking for a group of people to help build me and lead me," he said. "Having a brotherhood like that now, joining them, was one of the best things I could have ever done."
Even though Nickell withdrew from school and left the chapter in 2019 due to financial reasons, the ties to his fraternity remained strong. Nickell experienced a tragic accident earlier this year and his brothers rallied to help.
In January, Nickell was driving an ATV at his parents' house with his friend and Fraternity brother Coby Lumpkins (Morehead State University, 2021), a senior from West Liberty. He came to a hill that he "rode a million times" and halfway up, the vehicle spun out in the mud and lost control, leading to Nickell cutting the wheel the wrong way and flying off the side of the hill.
"It was probably the worst spot you could fall off of that hill," he said.
By the time his body had tumbled, banging up against his four-wheeler and rocks, and stopped, he instantly realized he couldn't move. He was in terrible pain and felt like he was going to suffocate. Lumpkins, who only suffered some cuts and bruises, ran down to get Nickell's stepdad, who came and cut his jacket open so he could breathe more. They called an ambulance, and he was transported by helicopter to the University of Kentucky Medical Center, where Nickell learned the full extent of his damages.
A neck fracture caused the bone to be compressed against his spinal cord, rendering Nickell a person with quadriplegia. The first two weeks after his accident, Nickell couldn't move his arms or legs.
"That was a point where it was really, like, you never felt so low in your life, not being able to feed yourself and kind of not knowing if you were ever going to do it again," he said.
After transferring to Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Center in Lexington, he started to bounce back over six to seven months. He gained the function of his arms, feeding himself and learning to get himself in bed and back to his wheelchair without assistance.
"That was a very big independent thing that I worked on," he said.
While Nickell was fighting for his independence after the accident, his Delt brothers couldn't visit and check up on him due to COVID-19 health and safety precautions. News of the accident spread quickly on social media and Delt brothers tracked Nickell's progress by talking to his family members.
"When it first happened, I was definitely more, 'Oh my goodness, is he going to be OK?'" said Cody Hammonds (Morehead State University, 2021), a senior from Lovely and president Zeta Zeta Chapter. "I was relieved, but at the same time, if this was as bad of an injury, how is this going to impact his life down the road?'"
Dr. Darrin DeMoss ((Morehead State University, 1989), professor of biology and advisor for Zeta Zeta Chapter, said the desire to organize and do something for Nickell in the spring semester of 2021 was immediate. Chapter members worked at two spring basketball tournaments in Morehead. Delt oversaw parking at the Kentucky High School Athletics Association (KHSAA) 16th Region Boys Basketball Tournament and assisted in various roles with Morehead Parks and Recreation. The money the chapter raised in the spring tended to go toward various philanthropies.
"This year, we knew where the money was going," DeMoss said.
While Delta Tau Delta has always had a high rate of member participation for philanthropic events, the thought of raising money for Nickell sparked an even greater response.
"Every single member participated in both of the activities. It was all hands on deck," DeMoss said. "Every single man participated. Every man. Now, that is unique."
"In some ways, if not every way, it inspired us to be better people ourselves," Hammonds said. "Every day on social media, you see him on these new machines trying to work out. It's absolutely phenomenal that he has come so far in such a short amount of time."
In October 2021, DeMoss called Nickell and wanted him to come for a special Delt presentation. While Nickell suspected his fraternity brothers were raising money for him, he was shocked to find out that between the two games the Delt brothers worked, they raised $4,000.
"I felt so blessed. Absolutely blessed. It made me feel like more people care than what I had initially thought," Nickell said. "I had tears in my eyes for what they did and how much they raised."
The money Delt raised is going toward purchasing a modified vehicle that will allow Nickell to travel to work and school. Nickell has plans to return to MSU to earn a degree in psychology and pursue a career as a counselor.
"I feel like that's my calling and I feel like that is what I'm supposed to do with my life," he said.
DeMoss said not only will Nickell become an active member of Delt when he returns to MSU, but he also wants to make sure he is a fixture around the chapter as they continue to raise money for Nickell. For the collective brotherhood, the entire experience—from the accident to the coming together to help a brother in need—gave everyone a new outlook.
"It's just kind of made me realize that people say life is a gift. It's short. To be honest with you, most people think they are invincible until it happens to them," Hammonds said. "It makes me want to focus on the good aspects of life and not take anything for granted."
To donate to Cole Nickell's GoFundMe page for his treatments and recovery, visit https://gofund.me/f37eb182.
To learn more about Fraternity and Sorority Life at MSU, visit www.moreheadstate.edu/greek.