Making a difference: Students raise more than $20,000 for St. Jude Hospital

February 22, 2009

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- The personal battles of four Indiana State University students against cancer served as the spark for students, faculty and staff to step up to the plate and do what they could -- raise money for research and a cure.

The Sycamore effort raised $20,537 in its first year of participating in Up 'til Dawn, a national fundraising program to give students the opportunity to help the children and families of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital while also having fun. More than 250 colleges and universities now participate in Up 'til Dawn, which began in 1998. To date, the program has raised more than $16.5 million for St. Jude.

Indiana State's Up 'til Dawn began last spring with an information meeting with Susie Tatum, a St Jude Children's Research Hospital representative. During the summer, three students traveled to St. Jude and attended a workshop designed to educate students on what goes on at Jude everyday and to give ideas on how to raise money for the hospital.

Al Perone, associate dean of students, said the experience has been very rewarding on many levels.

"I think it has been an incredible first year," he said. "We have learned so much about the Hospital, ourselves and our students."

Gabe Mullane, a junior physical education major from Massillon, Ohio, said the fundraiser was an opportunity to help in a situation he was all too familiar with.

"I had just finished my final round of treatments in my own battle with cancer when I saw a flyer for Up til Dawn," Mullane recalled. "It said 'help fight childhood cancer' real big across the top. I thought about my own recent struggle at age 20. I started thinking about all of these sick kids and I couldn't even imagine how hard it must be on them and their families. I was sold."

Mullane served as the executive director for Indiana State's campaign.

For the 12 students who served on Indiana State's executive board, cancer is something they've seen up close. Four members are cancer survivors. Two members are currently battling cancer. One member of the committee was familiar with the work of St. Jude -- as a young St Jude patient.

J.D. Miller, a junior Elementary and Special Education major from Greencastle, is a cancer survivor who served as team chairperson for Indiana State's Up 'til Dawn campaign.

"Cancer changes your life forever," Miller said. "You have a new 'normal' in life after all the treatments or transplants while battling cancer. I had to help others who battle cancer (like me) and Up 'til Dawn allowed me to help the children battling cancer at St. Jude."

Students organized a Letter Writing Night, which was held in conjunction with President Daniel Bradley's installation week activities in November. More than 200 students and faculty gathered in Hulman Memorial Student Union, each sending a minimum of 50 letters to friends and family seeking donations to fight childhood cancer.

"The true sprit of ISU showed up and helped out," Miller said. "It is wonderful to know that so many people were willing to give up an evening to help fund cancer research at St. Jude."

Mullane agrees.

"I am very proud of the students and faculty at Indiana State as well as the city of Terre Haute," he said. "A lot of people have gotten behind this cause and have offered us a great deal of support. I know how grateful the families of St. Jude are for everyone's effort. With the first year under our belt, I can't wait to see what we'll be able to do next year."

Opened in 1962, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas and based in Memphis, Tenn., no family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay.

St. Jude is financially supported by ALSAC, its fundraising organization. The hospital also receives assistance from federal grants (mainly through the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute), insurance and investments. The hospital's daily operating costs are nearly $1.4 million, which are primarily covered by public contributions like Up 'til Dawn solicits.

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Contact: Gabriel Mullane, executive director of Up 'til Dawn, gmullane@indstate.edu

Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications & Marketing, (812) 237-3783 or pmeyer4@isugw.indstate.edu

Story Highlights

The personal battles of four Indiana State University students against cancer served as the spark for students, faculty and staff to step up to the plate and do what they could -- raise money for research and a cure. The effort raised $20,537 in its first year of participating in 'Up 'til Dawn,' a benefit for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

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