St. Jude raised record amount of money at Murray State
Story by Gisselle Hernandez, Assistant Features Editor
While a typical Friday night in a college town does not usually consists of shaving heads, duct taping torsos or dancing silently to “Macarena,” this was the experience 100 students faced on Friday night through Saturday morning.
For six hours, Redbull-fueled students donated their time by participating in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital “Up ‘til Dawn” charity event. After raising $600 each, 16 teams were invited to stay up all night in honor of children diagnosed with cancer.
Succeeding its two previous annual events, this year’s “Up ‘til Dawn” raised more than $27,000 – the most it has ever raised, said Ventara Dillon, regional outreach representative for St. Jude.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s aim is to advance cures and means of prevention without having parents pay for their child’s treatment. The budgeted daily operating cost of running the hospital is $2 million, with 75 percent of the budget covered by donations. Events like “Up ‘til Dawn” are hosted so parents don’t have to worry about how their child’s medical bills will be paid.
“The reason we do it [all night] is that we feel St. Jude parents stay up all night worrying whether their kids will survive,” Dillon said. “So, we want students to come together and stand alongside our families by staying up all night.”
Kicking off at midnight in Racer Arena, the ceremony began with guest speaker 20-year-old Kristina Hunsucker from Memphis, Tennessee, who was diagnosed with Metastatic Ewing’s Sarcoma two years ago. She shared her experience of battling cancer, which she said had “entered her life without permission.” Her story moved some students to tears, as her optimism urged students to appreciate the life they have.
“Scars are just tattoos for better stories,” she said.
After receiving a standing ovation for her speech, six male students said goodbye to their locks as Hunsucker shaved their heads in honor of cancer patients who lose their hair through chemotherapy. The volunteers were those who had participated in the change wars ongoing earlier in the week. Students cheered as the students sat awaiting their turn with the electric razor.
The opening ceremony led to the students’ first challenge of the night – creating a flag out of a pillowcase and markers. In the second challenge, students played adult Hungry Hungry Hippos, with students showing their competitive side as they skated across the court to rush for plastic balls. Another challenge was a duct tape fashion show where teams crafted an outfit out of colorful duct tape onto a willing team member.
One of the more popular challenges was the silent disco that provided headphones with three different channels to each student, allowing each individual to listen to a song of their choice. Students dancing to their own beat flooded the court, moving in silence except for the music filling their ears.
As the hours ticked by, students completed challenge after challenge with snacks and pizza offered during breaks. There was also a St. Louisan artist who sketched caricatures versions of students for free.
While many participated for the sake of giving back, some, like Daniela Callejas, junior from Sogamoso, Colombia, had a more personal connection to the philanthropy. Callejas and her team sported a blue and red “superman” shirt. She said the particular uniform honored her 8-year-old cousin, Sergito, who died of leukemia soon after her decision to participate in “Up ‘til Dawn.”
“As a result of my personal tragedy, my desire to participate grew,” she said. “We used a superhero shirt because I believe every child that goes through this somehow teaches us how strong a child has to be while battling cancer.”
Yawns and drowsy eyes became more prominent as 4:30 a.m. rolled around, with students finishing the last challenge of the morning – a lip-sync battle fueled by bagels. The closing ceremonies began at 5 a.m., and awards were given out to top Fundraising Team, Top Fundraising Individual and Challenge Winner.
Lambda Chi Alpha won Challenge Winner and each individual received gift cards donated by local businesses. Callejas won Top Fundraising Individual and her team, MSU Rotaract, an on-campus organization, won Top Fundraising Team. She expressed her gratitude to Murray State for hosting such an important fundraising event.
“I received many positive rewards for my efforts,” Callejas said. “But none as great as the joy I felt knowing that the money raised at this event will help so many children and their families.”