Mike Berger, Justin Karlitz-Grodin, and Josh Strugatz could not imagine life without the fourth member of their self-proclaimed brotherhood within Lambda Chi Alpha, Jeff Trovato. So, when Trovato passed away from colon cancer recently, the friends were unsure how they would be able to move on.

The bond between the brothers began for Berger the first day he stepped foot on Cornell University’s campus. He had been assigned a random roommate, which he admits he was nervous about. What if the two were total opposites, sharing a tiny living space? That random roommate, however, turned out to be Trovato, a man who Berger describes as the extreme of the adjectives he would use to desribe him: smart, caring, and the most welcoming personality imaginable.

Berger and Trovato immediately formed a strong friendship, which soon included Karlitz-Grodin and Strugatz. The group decided that they wanted to become a part of something bigger than themselves, which led the four to join Lambda Chi Alpha.

The years after Cornell saw the group of friends through personal and professional growth,  marriages, and children, and the most difficult hurdle they would ever have to face: the loss of their friend.

Berger on the first day he met Trovato. Courtesy of Mike Berger

Though Berger, Karlitz-Grodin, and Strugatz were grieving, they could not fathom the amount of pain Trovato’s wife, Elizabeth, and their two-year-old son, Jude, were experiencing. The thought that Jude would never truly know his father pushed the men to action. They had to help in any way they could.

“We wanted to do something meaningful, but more than just sending something to his [Trovato] wife,” said Berger. “We realized that the connection we have with Jeff was really from Cornell and from the fraternity; when we think of Jeff, those are the years we think about.”

And so a GoFundMe account was started to help finance Jude’s future college education.

“I think we all really wanted to do something for him and in honor of him,” said Karlitz-Grodin. “Leaving behind a two-year-old was probably the hardest part of it, so it seemed like a good opportunity to help raise some money for Jude’s future college education, which is how we all met.”

The goal began at 10000 dollars, but to the great surprise and delight of the three friends, the donations kept soaring in, some from brothers of the fraternity whom they had never met before. It was astounding, said all three of the men, to see how brotherhood truly is for a lifetime, and you will always be able to count on brothers in a time of need.

“It’s a lasting brotherhood,” said Strugatz. “That affinity and connection that you have doesn’t fade over time; there is always a piece of you that remains present.

Trovato with his wife, Elizabeth, and their son, Jude. Courtesy of the College Fund for Jude GoFundMe

“Even if you are living halfway across the country, there is a piece of you that is always a part of Lambda Chi…”

Now with over 15000 dollars in donations, the three friends look to continue Trovato’s legacy through Jude and his education. They fully plan on recounting their fond memories of Trovato to Jude as he grows up, remembering the very best times with their dear friend.

Though he will be missed greatly, Trovato’s chapter brothers will always honor the compassionate, smart, and warm person that he was.

“This really is a way to carry on Jeff’s legacy and to continue what Jeff meant to Lambda Chi, what Jeff meant to our local brotherhood, the experiences he gave us, the memories, the friendship, and the support,” said Strugatz. “We owe Jeff a lot…”

Learn more about the GoFundMe for Jude here.

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