Up ’til Dawn letter-writing party makes a big splash

Music and the scent of barbequed food caught the attention of those flowing to and from classes through the Breezeway on Wednesday. Students gathered on the UC Patio around decorative tables and bright signs to participate in Up ’til Dawn’s annual fundraising event, known as the “All Team Meeting.”

Up ’til Dawn is a nationwide college-based fundraising campaign benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. As the largest pediatric cancer research facility in the world, it does not ask a patient to pay more than their insurance covers. Those without insurance are not required to pay at all. St. Jude accommodates the patient and one parent with transportation, housing and food for treatments and yearly visits. Opportunities for children in need of the often expensive treatments are made possible as a result of generous donations to the hospital from organizations such as UM’s Up ’til Dawn.

With several different events scheduled throughout the year, the “All Team Meeting” letter-writing party is one of the organization’s largest fundraising efforts. Students formed teams during the first semester and competed against one another on Wednesday to write as many letters as they could, requesting donations to St. Jude’s.

While teams competed for prizes, most seemed motivated by a more important goal and ultimate prize: money for the hospital.

“It’s for such a good cause,” Ramiro Munoz, junior, said. “I remember when it [Up ’til Dawn] started, and [I’ve watched] the momentum that built up.”

Student support for the philanthropic group has continued to build.

Now a widely recognized organization on campus, Up ’til Dawn was able, for the first time, to adhere to the national campaign model for this event.

In previous years, smaller letter-writing parties took place, but were catered to specific organizations. This left out those who wished to participate, but were not members of a certain group. This year’s switch to a large “All Team Meeting” for all groups proved to be more efficient and successful in raising funds. Another significant change this year was requesting sponsorship earlier and providing a packet with donor levels.

Students such as Rachel Ewy, freshman, planned to write 50 letters to family and friends. Others popped in, without previous knowledge about the event, and began writing just a few letters here and there. This year, students were given the option of finishing letters at home and turning them in on Friday, which made participation a bit more flexible and accommodating.

“We have a goal of raising $30,000 this year,” Mariano Rego, assistant director of Up ’til Dawn, said. “Last year we raised $16,000, so we hope to almost double that amount by vamping up our strategy.”

So far, Up ’til Dawn has raised about $25,000, without any letters but through events and sponsorship pledges.

While many students on campus were unaware of the event, some stopped in to donate money, grab a burger, and enjoy the music and beautiful weather, while at the same time, learning about one of the largest charity organizations on campus.

Taylor Pashley can be contacted at t.pashley@umiami.edu.