When St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital first opened its doors in 1962, the cure rate for children living with Acute Lymphoblast Leukemia (ALL) was only 4 percent. Today, over 92 percent of children with ALL can be expected to beat the disease.

On Sunday, Feb. 22 from 3-7 p.m., Fairfield University will be hosting an Up ’til Dawn letter-sending event for students, faculty, athletes, family and friends of the University community, in an effort to raise funds to benefit the life-saving work down at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital so that no child is ever turned away from care because of a family’s inability to pay.

Up ’til Dawn is a student-led program that raises money for the work done at St. Jude’s including both the research and the treatment. This Up ’til Dawn event happening at Fairfield next Sunday is one that takes place on over 185 campuses campus-wide.

This event is important to St. Jude because it costs $1.4 million dollars a day to keep the hospital doors open because there is no billing department at the hospital, according to Leah Heister, the St. Jude event marketing representative.

Jackie Dunham ’09, the executive director of the campus event and a member of Alpha Sigma Nu, describes her involvement both because of the inspiring work of the organization as well as personal connection to the cause.

‘I believe that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is an amazing place,’ said Dunham. ‘My cousin is one of the many patients that St. Jude has saved.’

Dunham, with her 13 other board members all from the Jesuit National Honor Society Alpha Sigma Nu and under the direction of Fr. Charles Allen,’ will be hosting the event. Heister will be working with the group on the event.

‘The event is really an easy way to raise money for an amazing cause,’ said Dunham. ‘We ask that all that are involved gather the names and addresses of family, family-friends, and friends’ parents and bring them to the lower level of the BCC on Feb. 22 anytime between 3-7.’
Students will address envelopes and already written letters to these names. The letter describes how the funds will benefit the research and care of the children of St. Jude. Included in the letter is a pre-addressed return envelope for donations.

‘ ‘In the past we have seen a tremendous return rate of 30 percent, with the average amount of $30,’ said Heister

‘It’s so easy and a great way to reach out to college communities, where students are always so busy,’ she added.

All patients at St. Jude are accepted for treatment regardless of their ability to pay: No one is expected to pay outside what is covered by insurance and those without insurance are never asked to pay. ‘ ‘ ‘

On March 22 from 6-9:30 p.m. there will be a finale event at the Levee to celebrate the fund-raiser.

Every student who has sent 50 letters will have their name entered in a raffle to win an iPod touch.

‘We do not have a monetary goal for this event. Our goal is more to set it up as an annual event and keep it part of the Fairfield community,’ said Heister.

St. Jude is the first and only established institution dedicated to the sole purpose of conducting basic and clinical research in childhood cancer and catastrophic illness.

The University has run this event before, but after the graduation of Catherine di Natale who was the previous executive director before Dunham, the event took a year-and-a-half break.

‘About three years ago [University President] Fr. Jeffrey von Arx received a letter from the President of St. Jude’s Hospital thanking Fairfield University for its support of Up ’til Dawn,’ said Allen.

Unsure of what of the event of which the note referred,’ Allen eventually found that di Natale had organized the program through student activities. However, after di Natale graduated, Allen looked for a student to’ restart the program, when finally Dunham volunteered.

‘I have the greatest admiration for the work being done at St. Jude’s Hospital as well as for the professional expertise of its local representative, Leah Heister,’ said’ Fairfield’s Allen.
‘We hope to get right off the ground running and with our first event of the year in February, we hope to accomplish in one semester what most colleges do in a year,’ said Heister.

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