By SAMANTHA HIGGINS, ASHLEY WEMMELL & HECTOR RAMIREZ
The University of New Haven surpassed Louisiana State University and is now the third fundraising university in the country after shattering all expectations by raising $87,130 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Participants at Up ‘Til Dawn (Photo by UNH Photography Club)
At 10 p.m. on Feb. 28, the Beckerman Recreation Center was filled with more than 500 participants dressed up in costume and ready to “stay up for good” for the UNH Up ‘Til Dawn Finale Event.
UNH Up ‘Til Dawn surpassed their goal of $50,000 nearly two weeks before the Finale Event and went on to raise $50,000 more than they did at last year’s Finale Event.
Throughout the night, teams competed in various challenges to raise points until 6 a.m. because “cancer doesn’t sleep, so why should we?” Text message clues were sent out at midnight, 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and teams had to complete each challenge presented. In between the events, smaller side challenges were announced and granted the teams more opportunities to raise points.
There were dozens of teams: graduate students, ROTC members, teams of students in neon tutus, some in princess tiara and others, like the Chi Kappa Rho Diamond team, took the Disney theme to heart and dressed as a particular movie. Teams consisted of friends that came together for the cause, sports teams, sororities and fraternities, and some individuals who just wanted to get involved and were added to other teams. The Disney theme was thought of to “really bring the children out” in the participants, according to Jackie Hinrichs and Julianne Toce, executive board members of UNH Up ‘Til Dawn.
The night began with high energy; the smell of popcorn greeted you at the door and there was cotton candy for an added sugar intake throughout the night. Food and coffee were also provided to keep everyone up and moving around throughout the night.
There were people dancing and running around, trying to keep energy high before and in between challenges, telling participants not to sit and that they wanted to see everyone on their feet—that it was for the children.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a pediatric treatment and research facility that aims to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric diseases through research and treatment. As stated as part of their mission statement, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay.
At St. Jude, families never have to worry about the bill—the hospital funds treatment, travel, housing, food and research conducted are free of charge because “all a family should worry about is helping their child live,” according to their website.
St. Jude shares all the breakthroughs they make worldwide, and treatments invented at the facility have helped raise the childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since opening its door in 1962.
The UNH chapter of St. Jude Up ‘Til Dawn has been on the UNH campus for the past seven years, and has been hosting the Finale Event for the last six in an effort to raise money and awareness for St. Jude.
Jill Grembowicz, the Regional Development Representative for St. Jude, has worked with UNH’s UTD executive board for the past two years. According to Grembowicz, last year there were only 172 registered participants for the Up ‘Til Dawn Finale Event, whereas this year, there were 520.
Grembowicz thinks the increase in participants from last year to this was thanks to the way the 172 participants from last year talked about the Finale Event in such high regard. Almost everyone involved last year wanted to share their personal experiences, and Grembowicz believes this helped with the rise in numbers.
She also said that there is an “incredible difference” from the Finale Events that were being put on by Up ‘Til Dawn three years ago to the incredibly hands-on and engaging events that the campus experienced this year. Grembowicz hopes to make this annual finale event a “signature event on campus.”
Stephanie Parrillo, a member of the Chi Kappa Rho Diamond team, said that the night was “really fun” and that the Disney theme “really gets everyone to be a kid” in honor of all of the children at St. Jude’s. Her entire team was dressed in a Monsters Inc. theme.
Challenges were announced either by Up ‘Til Dawn members, MCs, or text messages sent to participants giving them instructions about where to go.
Between challenges there were side challenges and entertainment including music, dancing, a comedian, giant Jenga game and performances by Sigma Lambda Beta, Lambda Alpha Upsilon and Monsoon Dance Crew.
Raffle tickets were also given to participants according to the amount of money raised for prizes including giftcards to Marshalls, Texas Roadhouse, and Starbucks, gift baskets, a VIP ticket to the Spring Concert, and a St. Jude sweatshirt.
Up ‘Til Dawn raised $87,130 with the help of 520 participants (Photo by UNH Student Tyler Skolnik)
The first challenge took place on the indoor track and had participants of each team doing a relay sack race, hopping to the end of the track, filing up a cup with candy, pouring it into their team bucket and letting the next person go. The team with the heaviest bucket at the end won. While they were waiting for other teams to compete in the first big challenge, a side challenge of “finding hidden Mickeys” began as well.
“It was really creative,” Sarah Fortin, a member of the 5678 Dance Team, said about the first challenge. “I liked it a lot. I had a lot of fun with it.” Her team was also looking forward to participating in the blowup game of twister.
The second challenge began with participants being told to “dress warm.” Teams had to put together a paper puzzle at the indoor track, tape it together, show it to a volunteer from Up ‘Til Dawn to receive a race flag with a number on it. Then, two pre-decided team members had to walk—not run for risk of being disqualified—to the German Club and find the two Cinderella slippers that had the numbers that corresponded to the number on their flag and go back to the Rec Center.
Before the third challenge, UTD e-board members took the stage to announce the top five Spirit Teams: Deephers Gone Wild, Answer for Cancer, Alpha Phi Omega, ROTC Team Stolar, and Sigma Chi EC. They also took this time to share the story a little girl named Kyla, and her journey at St. Jude’s, and how all the money raised would be helping children like her.
The third and final challenge of the night began with a text message that had everyone rushing to Jazzman’s. A Disney Relay that began in the Mezzanine with army soldiers being dropped to a partner, then had twenty marshmallows transferred from the table to a cup with just chopsticks down in the regular cafeteria area, an Olaf puzzle back up in the Mezzanine, and then finally finding a pearl in a bucket of sand with one hand behind your back in the alumni lounge, to end the event.
In the final moments of the night, the e-board of UTD not only announced the amount of money raised, but also had everyone participate in singing to make a video for a “No Mo’ Chemo Party.”
At St. Jude, when a child has their last day of chemotherapy, they celebrate just like we would celebrate a birthday—with cake, confetti, a song; the works. Grembowicz had all the participants learn the song and sing it for a video to be shared with all the kids at St. Jude who are done with chemotherapy.
The winners of the night were the DPhiE QT 3.14s. In second place was 4TK (For the Kids) and in third was Infinity and Beyond.
Notable groups were also announced, including ROTC, who brought ten teams and raised over $8,000, and the top individual fundraiser was Bianca Gureralp, who raised over $2,000. The top Greek chapter was Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the top student organization was Alpha Phi Omega.