Students stay up all night for a cause

Owensboro freshman Lindsey Cash of Kappa Delta plays around on bicycles before the start of Up All Night at the Preston Center on Friday. The event was held to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Anna Anderson

Instead of enjoying the first warm evening of the semester, almost 300 WKU students spent the whole night inside the Preston Center in support of St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

For the 22 people on the executive board who planned this year’s Up ’til Dawn, a lock-in celebration held Friday for students who raised money for the pediatric cancer center in Memphis, Tenn., this event was the culmination of all of their work since the beginning of the fall semester.

In the opening announcements of the event, St. Jude’s Event Marketing Representative Amy Ketchum said it takes $1.8 million to run the organization, and 75 percent of that amount comes from fundraising.

Ketchum said that WKU is always in the top five schools that raise the most money for St. Jude through events like Up ’til Dawn.

“There’s a need and a want to do something bigger than yourself,” said sponsor Mindy Johnson. “This gives students an opportunity to do that.”

Johnson, the assistant director of Student Activities, said she has been sponsoring Up ’til Dawn for the past six years.

Last year, Johnson said they raised $87,000.

Each year, that total comes from letter-writing sessions and other fundraisers.

Last fall, WKU students wrote to ask their family and friends for money to give to St. Jude. Letters were sent out again in the spring. The executive board, led by 23-year-old Jessica Mattingly, coordinates all of these events.

Mattingly, the senior corporate and organizational communications major from Evansville, said she has been on the board for three years, but her last year as the executive director has been the hardest.

“Having to coordinate all of that — to think big picture and small picture all at the same time — was definitely a challenge,” she said.

Ashley Hutsell, a 20-year-old elementary education major from Brentwood, Tenn., on the public relations committee within the executive board, said the board’s visit to St. Jude inspired her.

“We all know what we were raising money for, but it’s different to actually see it,” she said.

On Friday night, the attendants of Up ’til Dawn also got to see those directly affected by St. Jude’s services.

Jill Dixon, accompanied by her daughter Kadie, was among those who spoke during the opening remarks.

When Kadie was 4 years old, Jill said she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After getting a negative prognosis from doctors, Jill took her daughter to St. Jude.

During the months of Kadie’s treatment, Jill said she had to take unpaid time off work. Without St. Jude, she said, paying the bills would have been difficult.

“It’s very stressful,” Jill said. “But, at the time you don’t think about it because your child has cancer. You don’t think about how you’re going to pay until you get the bills — and they don’t charge anything.”

Jill said Kadie still gets yearly check-ups with St. Jude, and she will continue to do so until she is college-aged.

After introductions were said, the attendants played against each other in games like dizzy bat, tricycle racing and sack racing. Bands and magicians were also booked for the wee hours of the morning.

At the end of the event, the current total of money raised was revealed. Mattingly said the participants had raised $49,000 — for now.

The last batch of letters written this spring hasn’t been sent, and Mattingly said she thinks that number could easily double.