Students raise more than $56,000 for St. Jude

Photo courtesy of Dani Callejas.

Story by Katlyn Mackie, Contributing writer

More than $56,000 was raised for St. Jude Children’s Hospital thanks to the efforts of a student organization called Up ‘til Dawn.

Up ‘til Dawn is a nationwide yearlong fundraiser, and all proceeds go straight to St. Jude to treat children with cancer. Participants stay up all night during the event in honor of the parents who lose sleep while their children undergo treatment.

“No parent should be worrying about money, but caring about their kids while they are going through treatment,” Dani Callejas, senior from Sogamoso, Colombia, and member of the executive board of Up ‘til Dawn, said. “We raise the money so parents and family – whoever goes to St. Jude’s – they don’t have to pay a penny.”

On the night of the event, they raised $53,678. Callejas said everyone was surprised to find out President Bob Davies had donated more than $1,000 to even out the total to $55,000.

Additionally, a total of $1,700 was donated the next day, bringing the amount to approximately $56,700 – twice the amount they raised last year. This makes Murray State one of the top 10 fundraisers for Up ‘til Dawn in the nation.

“Each year, our Murray State students support St. Jude’s Up ‘til Dawn philanthropic efforts to help find a cure for childhood cancer,” Davies said. “This year, our students nearly doubled the monies raised. It was my honor to personally support them in these efforts and a cause that means a great deal to me.”

Katie Dunnavant, senior from Jackson, Tennessee, and executive director of Up ‘til Dawn, said she credits the big jump in donations to spreading awareness for St. Jude instead of just promoting it as a fun event.

“I think once people realize how incredible St. Jude’s work is, then they are more willing to participate and actually come and raise money,” Dunnavant said.

Multiple efforts were made to raise money including selling T-shirts, getting local businesses to donate, rebate nights at Los Portales, using social media to get donations and recruitment days for participants. Restaurants like Panera Bread, Qdoba and Dominos also participated by providing food for the event.   

Participants had to sign up for activities with a team of six people and raise at least $100 per person to be able to attend the night of the event.

The event included activities such as silent disco, creating a movie poster related to the St. Jude mission, a relay race and a box of lies.

Jacob Bridges, senior from Paducah, Kentucky – who had been growing his hair out for two years – participated in an activity that involved him shaving his head. Even though he participated in other activities, Bridges said shaving his head was what he looked forward to the most.

Bridges and Callejas both had personal reasons for being involved with Up ‘til Dawn, as they both had people close to them diagnosed with cancer.

“I’ve always loved St. Jude’s and had a passion for them,” Dunnavant said. “I think everything they do is incredible. Working with and for St. Jude is so fulfilling and there is nothing better than it in the world.”