Three hundred and twenty six days. 7,824 hours. 469,440 minutes. That’s how long it took to make the inaugural St. Jude Up ‘til Dawn event a success, from our first interest meeting to the final all-night challenge.
During Up ‘til Dawn — a nationwide, student-led, student-run, philanthropic program — college students raise money for and awareness of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. At St. Jude, no family has to ever pay for treatment, travel, housing or food, because “all a family should have to worry about is helping keep their child live.” This amazing organization is only possible because of donors and programs like Up ‘til Dawn.
I was fortunate enough to attend the St. Jude Collegiate Leadership Seminar in 2014. I can easily remember passing St. Jude and feeling something ignite inside of me. It was like I saw my future in front of me. It was in that moment that I could not have been any more sure of my life’s purpose: to work alongside those who make St. Jude a place of hope. When I stepped inside the hospital, I began to tear up. There is so much hope and so much life inside those hospital walls. Colors were bright, spirits were high and laughter could be heard through every hallway. Without even knowing it, they taught me something that day. No matter what I am going through, whatever life crisis I feel like I am having, there is nothing I cannot face.
Filled with inspiration and hope, it was on this trip I learned that our UTD Executive Director had to resign. I sat in shock, wondering how we would survive without a leader. Would the organization fall apart? Would people care? Would anyone come? I panicked for a second, but I knew with the help of our St. Jude representatives we would be OK. In the absence of our executive director, I decided to step up. I scheduled meetings, made goals and tried to think of events that would make us successful throughout the year. As a result, our St. Jude representatives appointed me executive director.
When I was told that I would fill this position, my excitement could have moved mountains. Not only did I love raising money for great causes, but I loved the mission of St. Jude: “no child should ever die in the dawn of life.” That phrase now motivates me every day.
With one member down, I thought that would be the worst that could happen, and then the board of seven reduced to two. It was our advertising and public relations director and me. Other issues arose, such as having to delay Up ‘til Dawn one semester and learning that our organization was not official on campus. While all of this seemed stressful I didn’t think anything of it, as starting any new organization comes with it’s own complications. We appointed new people to positions that were now empty and moved forward so we could achieve our goals.
With the newly appointed executive members we made a plan to have a large impact with our first event. We utilized every resource we had to get the word out about Up ‘til Dawn and raise money to help the kids.
After almost a full year of planning and preparing the night for us to stay “Up ‘til Dawn” was finally here. Anxious and worried, I didn’t know how the night was going to go or what problems would come up because it was our inaugural year. With my clipboard in hand I was running around Martinez attempting to make sure everything was in place. Our DJ from 94.1 was there, all of the decorations were set up, all of the food vendors had been called and confirmed. I had support from many organizations that I held near to my heart like Tau Kappa Epsilon, the P.E.A.C.E. Volunteer Center and Sigma Delta Tau to name a few. Every friend, adviser and executive member would come up and ask if I needed anything, which provided me with endless relief as everyone was willing to help me and make sure this event was a success.
When the night finally started every event went over well. We started off with syringe painting where every team was given two syringes and a paint brush and then had 30 minutes to paint a picture. This event was sponsored by P.E.A.C.E. so in their painting they had to incorporate Up ‘til Dawn and P.E.A.C.E.. There was an endless amount of creativity as some people made intricate designs from their fraternity or sorority insignia to the St. Jude logo baby. The events that followed were “Build Your Spartan Armor” which was a duct tape challenge where each team had to pick a model and then decorate them in duct tape. The last event of the night was a lip syncing challenge where teams picked a song from a hat and had 10 minutes to choreograph a dance and lip sync with their team. Throughout the night I only saw smiles on everyone’s faces as they were genuinely thrilled to be there.
As I got up to announce the closing ceremony I began to get emotional. It was an ethereal experience to see everyone there because they weren’t supporting me but instead they were helping the kids of St.Jude. Overall we ended up raising $10,433.14, which exceeded our goal of $10,000. For a first year organization I thought we would never get to that level. I cannot wait to double our goal next year. It’s because of programs like Up ‘til Dawn and the incredible and dedicated students of the University of Tampa that no child will ever die in the dawn of life.
Khadijah Khan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org