A Look at Up ‘til Dawn

Samantha Higgins

“No child should die in the dawn of life.” For some students at the University of New Haven, these words spoken by St. Jude founder Danny Thomas, are words that are held near and dear to their hearts.

Up ‘til Dawn executive board members Julianne Toce and Jacqueline  Hinrichs at the Collegiete Leadership Seminar at St. Jude Research Hospital (Photo provided by Julianne Toce)
Up ‘til Dawn executive board members Julianne Toce and Jacqueline
Hinrichs at the Collegiate Leadership Seminar at St. Jude Research Hospital
(Photo provided by Julianne Toce)

Up ‘til Dawn is an organization found on numerous college campuses that enlists students to work year round to raise money for St. Jude Research Hospital. The end of the fundraising period is celebrated with a “finale event,” during which all the participants stay up all night participating in various events before the final amount raised is revealed.

Up ‘til Dawn is not a typical on-campus club. It primarily consists of an executive board that coordinates the entire ultimate event. The board is responsible for planning the UTD finale, as well as fundraising parties, secret challenges, entertainment, and all other aspects.

Other students choose to participate in teams of six, with each team responsible for raising a minimum of $600 and participating in the fun on finale night.

Up ‘til Dawn wasn’t always an energy-filled, entertaining event like we all know it as today. It was established at UNH in 2008 by then-students Scotty Kazar and Ryan Nicholls as an all-night letter writing event. In spring 2014, it was revamped and became the event we all know today in order to “pertain more to college students,” said junior Julianne Toce, who is the executive director of Up ‘til Dawn this year.

Toce joined Up ‘til Dawn prior to the revamp, during her freshman year at an involvement fair. There were still general members and club meetings, during which members had the opportunity to make things to send to St. Jude hospital. She was promoted to recruitment chair her sophomore year, where she was responsible for presenting to clubs and organizations on campus and helping people form teams.

She “loved being on e-board,” and it fueled her decision to run for executive director this year.

Most students would not imagine the amount of work that goes into planning the event all year. For example, the e-board meets to come up with a theme for the finale in April. The theme choices must be able to relate back to St. Jude, but still be fun and interesting to participants. This year, the finale event theme is “Superheroes” because “not only do kids love them, but doctors are their heroes.”

In addition to finding a theme, the e-board is responsible for all finale preparations. Each member has their own responsibilities to cover, which Toce explains are “less formal and more logistical,” things like scripts, finding a master of ceremonies, meeting with St. Jude representatives, and making conference calls to ensure everything comes together.

Currently, there are 96 teams participating in this year’s event, with a total of 560 participants if you include volunteers, performers, alumni, and all others involved.

To help all the teams not only meet their personal goals, but also help the school meet its goal, there have been fundraising parties throughout the year hosted by senior Jacqueline Hinrichs, this year’s President of Fundraising for Up ‘til Dawn.

These parties consisted of teaching attendees about what St. Jude and Up ‘til Dawn are, how to post on social media, and how to personalize their pages.

The finale event will take place on Feb. 27 from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. on Feb. 28 with the masters of ceremony being juniors Brandyn Cesan and Craig Downey.

When teams arrive, each individual will be awarded prizes based on how much they raised. Those who raised $100 will receive a t-shirt, $250 earns a water bottle, $500 gets participants a sweatshirt, and $1,000 raised gets participants a backpack. In addition to raising money, the teams are competing for prizes by participating in games at the event. This year, the team that wins first place receives a $100 visa gift card for each member, and second and third place teams each get apparel. Other honors include Top Individual Fundraiser, Top Greek Team and Top Student Organization.

There are also national prizes – the team that raises the most money in the country wins a “St. Jude Experience,” which Toce herself got to experience last summer. Toce said it “was amazing; [it] was the best experience of my life.”

During this experience, attendees have the opportunity to tour the hospital and meet current patients, which gives a clear view of where all the money that students are working so hard to raise throughout the year goes.