Students and Murray residents came together Wednesday and Thursday to fight cancer, trying to raise $15,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital while also raising awareness for childhood cancer.
According to the St. Jude website, Up ‘til Dawn is a student-led, student-run program that is hosted by 235 colleges and universities across the country. The program unites faculty, staff and students in the fight against childhood cancer and other deadly diseases.
Tara Hawthorne, adviser of Up ‘til Dawn, said St. Jude helps by giving treatment to children who need it most, no matter what their families can afford.
“The mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is to find cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment,” she said. “It costs around $1.7 million a day to operate the hospital and all treatment to children is free no matter the families’ ability to pay.”
The event included a letter-writing campaign where individuals and organizations registered and sent letters to their families and friends asking them to donate to St. Jude. There was also food, music and raffles during the event, Hawthorne said.
Videos of St. Jude patients were shown at the event so that participants can get a sense of why they are volunteering and how much they can help such an important cause, she said.
Some of the students at the event had personal stories that led them to support the cause.
Andi Lawson, senior from Kearney, Mo., said she was diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was 17 years old. Now, she is two years cancer-free. Lawson said she thought it could never happen to her.
“It felt like my whole world was crumbling,” she said. “I never thought that it could happen to me, especially at that young of an age. I wondered, ‘Why me? What did I do?’”
Lawson said cancer does not only affect one person, but rather everyone in that person’s life.
“You never know what someone’s been though until you’ve been through it yourself,” she said. “Cancer affects everyone around you. If it wasn’t for my mom and my sister I couldn’t have done it. And my grandma watching over me.””
Lawson got involved in Up til’ Dawn events her first year at Murray State. She said she liked that St. Jude helps take care of children whose parents might not be able to afford the hospital bills.
“It’s a hard struggle for a parent to go through,” she said. “I saw what my mom went through with me and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
Shelbie York, freshman from Paducah Ky., said she has had a few people in her life become affected by the disease as well.
“My best friend’s brother died when he was 12 and both sides of my grandparents had cancer,” she said. “I want to work at St. Jude.”
Students involved in the event were also given the special opportunity to visit St. Jude.
“The students involved have had an opportunity to visit the hospital which is located in Memphis, Tenn., and have also met children in Murray that are St. Jude patients,” Hawthorne said.
Up ‘til Dawn, which began in 1999, has raised more than $32 million for St. Jude over the years, according to the St. Jude website.
“The students at Murray State chose Up til’ Dawn as something that they want to support and they have continued this event for several years,” Hawthorne said. “There are student organizations that also support other events such as Heart Walk and Relay for Life but Up til’ Dawn is different as it works with children, conducts its own research, and treatment is free for all patients.”