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4 October 2012

Semester of events to benefit St. Jude cancer research

Sophomore Zoe Gapayao falls into the dunk tank during an Up Till Dawn event Tuesday on the Rock. Holly Bensur // Contributing Photographer 

With the help of shaving cream, dunk tanks and whipped cream, students at UM held a fundraiser Tuesday afternoon on the Rock to benefit cancer research.

Up ‘Til Dawn’s “Pie Cancer in the Face” is one of several events the organization will host this month to raise money for children battling cancer.

Up ‘Til Dawn, a student organization that hosts fundraising efforts on behalf of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital based in Memphis, Tenn., will assist in the hospital’s mission to provide care to children with cancer at no expense to the family and the facility’s cancer research.

“Pie Cancer in the Face” is the second fundraising event in Up ‘Til Dawn’s semester-long campaign. Students paid $1 for three balls to be used at the dunk tank, or for a pie to throw at another student’s face.

This year, the organization will become more active around campus, according to senior Brooke Lemaire, the public relations chair for Up ‘Til Dawn. Lemaire took a PR class this summer at UM in which the hospital reached out for help with its public relations.

Once the fall semester started, Lemaire reached out to Up ‘Til Dawn and spearheaded the organization’s revamping efforts.

“St. Jude is such a great organization and they do so much to help families,” she said. “I knew I wanted to help implement new ideas and I wanted it to be a successful year because they do so much for the community.”

Lemaire said that she has not had any personal experiences with cancer, but she thinks it is important for students to help do everything they can when it comes to fundraising for the organization.

“We’d like to raise $10,000 ideally, but the most important thing is we get this program back on the ground and back to being successful on campus,” Lemaire said. “We want to set it up so we’re more visible and able to fundraise more in the future.”

At its peak, UM raised more than $25,000 annually, but in recent years, that number has dwindled, according to Maria Quesada, the event marketing representative from St. Jude. However, she is confident that the new PR tactics will be a significant help.

“As far as PR goes, they’re growing it from the ground up, and they’re doing great,” Quesada said. “They’re appealing to student interests and coming up with innovative ideas.”

The St. Jude offices based in Miami and South Florida appraoched UM for student input about how to increase the fundraising efforts on college campuses, according to Lemaire.

Up ‘Til Dawn has made this year’s events a month-long competition. The top three teams or individuals who attend the events and contribute the most amount of money will receive prizes at a final event on Nov. 7. This year’s events include the “Bald is Beautiful” coin wars – which took place last week – as well as “Pie Cancer in the Face,” a guest speaker, a social-media scavenger hunt and a letter-writing campaign.

Local businesses contributed by sponsoring the food, T-shirts and entertainment. Several student volunteers are compelled to assist with the events because of their personal experiences with cancer.

Students like Robert Pursell, winner of the “Bald is Beautiful” coin-war fundraiser, volunteered to shave his head because cancer has severely affected his family.

His little sister was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer 10 years ago, and after chemotherapy and a tracheotomy, she still has cognitive and respiratory shortcomings. His grandmother, who raised him while his parents were with his sister in intensive care, passed away two years ago from incurable stomach cancer.

“There’s no reason not to help out,” Pursell, a senior, said. “It’s only hair. It’ll grow back.”