The student-run program of Up ‘til Dawn was founded at the University of Memphis over 14 years ago to raise money for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The program, which is present on over 250 college campuses, hosts smaller fundraising events throughout the year and has raised over $20.6 million dollars between the college chapters thus far.

Though the events differ by school, they typically feature a student letter-writing campaign that is hosted in order to raise money for St. Jude.

The money that is raised through the Up ‘til Dawn program is used to fund various aspects of the hospital. According to the official website of the organization, St. Jude has an average operating cost of $1.7 million a day and is primarily funded through public contributions. The hospital is also the only pediatric cancer research center that will not turn away families who are unable to pay for treatment.

On Centre’s campus, two Up ‘til Dawn events are held each year. The biggest event to-date took place last spring at the Warehouse. To gain entry, students had to write five letters on behalf of St. Jude to family and friends, encouraging their friends and loved ones to donate money to the hospital.

“We had tables outside of Cowan the entire week before for students to [take time and] write their five letters,” senior and president of Centre’s chapter of Up ‘til Dawn Mary Tanner said.

Local businesses donated food and prizes for the late-night event held from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Students who wrote letters were even entered into a drawing for an iPad Mini. Senior Sarah Cramer was a winner of one of the iPads last year after writing 50 letters.

“I called my mom, who is an accountant, and she was excited because a lot of her wealthy clients make large donations to St. Jude every year,” Cramer said. “She knows it’s an incredible organization and wanted to help, so she sent me her yearly Christmas card list of names and addresses.”

Tanner said that, on average, every letter results in a $20 donation, meaning that last spring’s event raised almost $4,300 for St. Jude Hospital.

“We want the events to help St. Jude but also affect the culture on campus,” Tanner said. “We want people to be able to take pride in what they are doing and say, ‘I helped do that. I helped St. Jude.”

Centre’s Up ‘til Dawn activities are planned by an Executive Board of seven students. Executive Board member and senior Audrey Powers decided to become involved with the program after learning about St. Jude through her sorority, Delta Delta Delta (TriDelt), whose national philanthropy is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“I thought that by doing Up ‘til Dawn, I could get more of the school involved in helping St. Jude, not just the TriDelts,” Powers said.

The board meets every three weeks to brainstorm and organize the events. The fall event scheduled to take place in November was cancelled due to inclement weather.

The board is also trying to get in contact with a St. Jude family to come speak at a convocation prior to the event.

“Students may not know what the money is going toward,” Tanner said. “If we had a family come and speak about their experience with St. Jude, students would see the difference they are making by participating in the event.”

Tanner also mentioned that for future events, the Executive Board hopes to emphasize writing the letters before the night of the letter-writing party. The students are also trying to find times when large groups of students would be able to participate as well as find bigger prizes to give away at the end of the night.

The annual spring letter-writing event is primarily aimed at getting students on campus involved in active service. Through an agreement with Director of Community Service and the Bonner Program and Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Matthew Klooster and the Student Life Office, students will receive one hour of community service credit for writing ten letters for St. Jude.

“Up ‘til Dawn is similar to the saying on the first-year service project t-shirts: ‘Do what you can with what you have, where you are,’” Tanner said. “It provides a way for students to be engaged in a process and do something to make a difference.”

More information about the Up ‘til Dawn program and ways to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital can be found at

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