Contrary to its name, Up ’til Dawn provided students with an opportunity to help children without losing too much sleep. The event, organized by students to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, brought together teams of students to address letters requesting donations to St. Jude’s. Students came for the community service opportunity and were rewarded with free food, free shirts, and prizes including gift cards to restaurants and even an iPod Touch.
St. Jude’s mission is “to advance cures and means of prevention for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment” according to their website, stjude.org. Treatments are free to the patients and their families, increasing the hospital’s running costs to about 1.5 million dollars a day. St. Jude’s sponsors numerous letter-writing events such as Up ’til Dawn to help fund their work.
The participants in Up ’til Dawn brought ten addresses each and addressed form letters to friends and loved ones, soliciting donations to St. Jude. In return for the ten letters, participants received food, a t-shirt, and entrance into a raffle. Each additional ten letters led to additional entries into the raffle. The evening also involved entertainment, including a performance by the Mines dance team.
Reasons for participating in Up ’til Dawn varied widely.As Kaitlyn Walker explained, “My friend Whitney’s in the sorority, Sigma Kappa, and she was just trying to get as many people as she could so she asked me to put together a team, and I just tried to get as many friends as I could to join, and then that’s kind of how I got involved.”
Another substantial contingent could also relate to Amanda Polednik, who explained, “I saw the signs around campus. I’m part of Alpha Phi Omega, which is the service fraternity. They were saying that it was a good service opportunity, and it sounded like a good idea to me.”
But probably the most emotional story came from one letter writer, Benjamin Goertz, who said, “The main reason why I’m doing this is that right now my father has a tumor in his brain, so it’s a very personal matter. It’s close to me, so I really want to get awareness out there. I know that it’s very common in my family, so it hits home.”
The organizers primarily want to increase knowledge among students about both St. Jude and the Up ’til Dawn event. Whitney Dedeluk, president of Up ’til Dawn said, “The number one thing I would want people to know about Up ’til Dawn specifically is that we’re not actually asking people to stay up ’til dawn. It’s not a huge time commitment. It’s the easiest community service on campus and it’s for an incredible cause. I’ve been lucky enough to actually go to the hospital before, and I won’t rave about what an inspirational institute it is, but it really is a great cause.”