St. Jude’s Fundraising Decline Worries Students
$1.7 million is the cost of operating St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for one day — none of which comes from the pockets of patients. St. Jude’s mission is to have no child be denied treatment because of a family’s inability to pay. For the members of Loyola University Chicago’s Up Til Dawn chapter, this means making it a personal mission to raise money for the patients.
Paige Pallas and Emma Reincke are two Loyola seniors leading the fight for St. Jude patients through the Loyola chapter. The duo works with six active members to spread the word on campus and to raise money through their annual letter sending party.
The letter sending party is a fundraising spectacle Up Til Dawn puts on to unite students and organizations, beyond its own members, to rally behind the St. Jude mission. Up Til Dawn speaks at meetings of other Loyola organizations, send emails to fellow classmates and post signs around campus to encourage participation from the entire student body.
Walking into the party, one is greeted by smiling pictures of child cancer survivors. The atmosphere is loud with music and colorful with red and yellow tablecloths topped with confetti and lined with streamers. A buffet of Einstein’s bagels, pizza and sandwich fixings encourages people to sit down, stay awhile and enjoy themselves.
The purpose of the party is to encourage students to educate friends, families and coworkers about St. Jude and ask them to help support the children’s hospital with whatever they can give. One hundred percent of donations go directly to the hospital.
“We have to educate about St. Jude; it is really when people understand the specifics that people begin to understand exactly how important their involvement and donations are,” Reincke said.
With a passion for service, Reincke was immediately drawn to the organization at Loyola’s Welcome Week organization fair. The booth was covered in St. Jude propaganda — happy, smiling children covered the posters and pamphlets. She walked over to learn more about the organization and was greeted by a warm and passionate explanation of the organization from the president. She was hooked — and would remain so for the next four years at Loyola.
Up Til Dawn has chapters at universities all across the nation. It was at a national conference that both Pallas and Reincke realized how much of an impact that Up Til Dawn has made for the patients of St. Jude, and on them as volunteers.
“Being able to go to the hospital and have the patients tell you how appreciative they are of what you are doing, and thanking you for caring, and thanking you for being part of an organization that they feel so personally is truly a humbling experience,” explained Reincke. “Everyone was thankful — I felt so blessed to see that positive outlook that so many of the patients I encountered had.”
More than 500 students came together that weekend to meet both the patients they were fighting for and the other students they were fighting with.
When Reincke toured the entirety of the kid-oriented hospital, it was walking down the beautiful mural-covered hallways, seeing the children smiling and pushing each other around in carts that she realized how magical the place truly was. She did not see any signs of sickness.
“At the conference we got to hear personal stories from the patients we had helped,” Pallas said. “Knowing that the little bit I did helped to save their life and seeing their gratitude was truly rewarding.”
Reincke was particularly inspired by the story of a university-student-intern-turned patient. The girl was a medical student from Atlanta who just secured an internship that following summer at St. Jude. She went home for the beginning of summer break and all of a sudden her shin started to hurt. Her mother thought she was being a bit of a drama queen, but they decided to get it checked out to be safe. It turned out that she had an incredibly rare form of cancer. Because she was a medical student she had the capability to understand exactly what was happening to her, and knew the odds for survival. She ended up beating it, and St. Jude offered her a research position at the hospital, which is an honor.
“She was a college student just like us,” Reincke said. “She got in front of 500 college students and shared such a personal, emotional story with us. I could just see my life — how this could happen to anyone, how this could happen to me. Her story made it real.”
Reincke’s experience at the conference gave her that extra push needed to keep from getting discouraged by the small turnout at meetings, and overall lack of campus involvement she has seen at Loyola. Reincke explained that there are problems with getting people interested in the organization and she believes it is a campus-wide issue affecting Loyola.
“There is a lack of school pride,” Reincke said. “Even with sports it’s hard to get people interested in anything. I don’t know if it’s because we have two campuses, or because we have a lot of commuters, or what. But we just need more awareness. We need people to care.”
It was certainly felt at the last Up Til Dawn fundraising event this past November, which raised a disappointing $4,000. It seems like little more than a myth when members say a mere two years ago they raised $20,000.
“Our name doesn’t carry a meaning to many people,” Reincke said. “We really need help establishing ourselves on campus and need the support of bigger organizations.”
Although Up Til Dawn will be losing its two leaders, both young women have hope for the organization, despite their concerns. Pallas says the small organization is like a family, and she is comforted knowing that there are passionate and dedicated members who will work hard to maintain the Up Til Dawn tradition at Loyola.
“We might not have the largest roster, but we have quality, caring, and smart members,” Reincke said. “The majority are freshman and I believe they will truly make the most of these upcoming years to help continue to spread the story of St. Jude.”