Each November at Marist brings fond memories of Thanksgiving Dinners, reminders that final exams are less than a month away, and a flurry of letter writing that can only mean Up ‘Til Dawn is right around the corner. This frenzy of school spirit and charitable activity, brought to you annually by the Student Government, has become a tradition at Marist, which has distinguished our Red Foxes amongst our neighboring schools in the State of New York. With each New Year, our organization continues to shatter records, conquer competitions, pile up awards, and raise upward of $20,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. However, even though Marist sets the bar for St. Jude fundraising, there are still many Red Foxes that don’t understand what Up ‘Til Dawn is all about, and just what kind of work St. Jude is responsible for. That’s why this past summer, Executive Director of the St. Jude Fundraising Committee, April Bourlier; our Faculty Adviser, Maryellen Conway; and I went down the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN to bring back a little St. Jude Spirit.
However, before we could do that we had to find out just what it was that St. Jude was all about. We all know that St. Jude’s is a Children’s research Hospital, but how are they set up? What else do they do other than treat sick children? And why are our contributions so important? Primarily, St. Jude is a unique combination of a Children’s Hospital and a Research Center. This means that they are not only working around the clock to treat children as young as newborns to the age of 19 with catastrophic diseases, but they are also studying these cases to find and develop cures. The one thing that sets St. Jude above and beyond any other hospital in the world is that they do this all for free. Driven 100% by private donations, St. Jude NEVER charges a patient or their family for the treatment they receive from the day they are diagnosed and throughout their lives. Additionally, St. Jude will also fly their patients and one parent or guardian from anywhere in the world to Memphis and house them on the hospital campus, all free of charge.
On our first full day in Tennessee, our group was treated to a tour of the St. Jude campus, and boy were we in for a surprise! Because St. Jude is one of the world’s largest Children’s Research Hospitals, the insides of St. Jude’s facilities are designed more like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory than a hospital. Each building, each floor, and each residence area has its own theme from popular sports teams to a physical therapy center decorated like a tropical rainforest. This effort is made to make the patients feel at home, because cancer treatments can take months and some procedures can require years of care. In addition to these playful themes, the walls of St. Jude are decorated with the art work of St. Jude patients and the hospital features rooms for video games, board games, group activities, and a “teen zone” with a pool table and computers for older patients. In most cases, the children of St. Jude do not think that they are in a hospital, and simply refer to the campus as their home.
Needless to say, it takes a lot of help to keep St. Jude running, as it costs over $1.7 Million PER DAY to keep their doors open. The services that they provide, the quality of care that patients are given, and the belief that “No child should die in the dawn of life” all depends on the generosity of complete strangers and the dedication of college Students like you. That is why Up ‘Til Dawn was organized as a letter writing campaign for St. Jude that is 100% student driven. Each year, the Marist College Student Government Association dedicates 2-3 nights in November for this campaign in the Cabaret and asks for support from ALL student organizations. All we ask is that students come to Up ‘Til Dawn with a list of mailing addresses of their family and friends (with a goal of 50 addresses per student), and prizes are offered to student who write the most (such as a Nintendo Wii in 2009 and an iPod touch in 2010).
Like the hospital, our visit to Memphis was a combination of work and fun. After spending a day in conferences and seminars, our St. Jude group was taken on a tour of Elvis’ Graceland Estate with our New York Representative, Lisa Brady. Following the tour, the entire gathering of Up ‘Til Dawn boards were treated to a “mock” Up ‘Til Dawn at the University of Memphis. Amidst all the fun, inspiration struck and our committee agreed on a Jersey Shore/Boardwalk theme for this year titled: “GTL (Give to Live)” with St. Jude. So, if you’re feeling DTF (Down to Fundraise) watch out for our first Committee info session on Wednesday, September 14th at 9:30pm in the SC349!