While most college students were out partying or hanging with friends, on Sat., Nov. 11, Marist students traded in a night of sleep to participate in the 12th annual Up ‘Til Dawn event, which raises money for the pediatric cancer patients of St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Located in Memphis, TN, St. Jude’s is one of the world’s premier pediatric cancer and treatment centers. With the help of the donations it receives through events like Up ‘Til Dawn, St. Jude’s covers the treatment, travel, housing and food expenses for all of the roughly 7,500 patients it treats each year.
This year’s Up ‘Til Dawn Executive Director, Casey Jaeb, cannot remember a time when St. Jude Children’s Hospital was not a part of her life. She made her first donation- the contents of her piggy bank- at the age of six, and in high school organized a night-long zumbathon event, the proceeds of which went directly to the children’s hospital.
Now, as a college senior, Jaeb led the organization’s efforts to ensure its participants were fulfilling their fundraising potential, and would all make it to sunrise on Sun., Nov. 12.
“I don’t know about anybody else, but this moves me,” Jaeb gushed. “To see college students give up a night when they could be going out or doing other things with their friends, and [instead] giving their night to raise awareness about St. Jude’s, is amazing.”
The event kicked off at 11 p.m. with interactive games in the student center, followed by a karaoke session in the cabaret. In between activities, students watched video montages of St. Jude patients and their stories, and took photos at the decorated backdrop. Food and refreshments were provided throughout the night to keep the participants well fueled.
Jaeb explained how the event’s brainstorming process usually starts in April, while the actual planning begins about three weeks into the start of the new school year. Although a portion of the funds for the event are provided by Marist’s Student Government Association and St. Jude’s, some of the expenses come directly out of the board member’s pockets.
While students who participated were encouraged to fundraise at least $100, many went above and beyond that goal, with some raising over $1000 each. For those who struggled to fundraise, however, the St. Jude executive board hosted several events and donation challenges throughout the semester to give students a head start, including the “Halloween No-More-Cancer-Rally,” which took place on Oct. 24.
Sophomore student Alexa Fisher participated in the event with her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. The fundraiser struck a personal chord in Fisher, who has several family members affected by cancer.
“[Living] in the college bubble, you often times don’t think about anything but yourself and your problems,” Fisher said. “So [realizing] that there’s other people that are struggling more than you but are powering through, shows that you can power through too.”
Similar sentiments inspired Ava Hanlon to become involved in Up ‘Til Dawn during her freshman year, when a close family friend’s 11-year-old daughter was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Leukemia.
“My passion [for Up ‘Til Dawn] comes from the hope and spirit these children have to fight this disease everyday,” Hanlon, a junior, said. “To me, it is my job to to help in any way I can, to one day see these children home and healthy again, cancer free.”
According to the St. Jude website, approximately 75 percent of the hospital’s budgeted costs are covered by public contributions. Since its conception more than 50 years ago, St. Jude’s has helped increase the childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent in 1962 to 80 percent in 2018.
“St. Jude is one of the greatest charities in the world,” Jaeb said. “They provide treatment for kids with life threatening illnesses at no charge to the families, and on top of that they do top-of-the-line research that they share with every hospital and every doctor around the world who wants access to it. St. Jude is just amazing.”
Enthusiasm was still high among the participants as the night neared dawn, and reached a crescendo when, at 5 a.m., the executive board members gathered on the third floor of the Rotunda to reveal the total amount fundraised: $61,567 of their initial $65,000 goal.
This year marks the first time Marist’s chapter of Up ‘Til Dawn fundraised over $60,000. Since the event, the total has climbed to $62, 342, and continues to grow even now.
“The outcome of the event is one thing, but the fundraising we were able to achieve is astounding,” Hanlon said. “That one night of sleep is incomparable to the sleep parents and children lose when battling cancer, so every ounce of me is beaming with pride of how incredible the turnout was.”