When she was in high school, PC senior Keighley Aldridge babysat for a little boy who was diagnosed with cancer and received treatment at St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Aldridge remembers that the boy’s family “had such an amazing experience with St. Jude” and they still continue to raise money for research that goes to the hospital.
“Because of the experience, I have always had a special place in my heart for children and for St. Jude,” Aldridge said.
Aldridge decided when she was a freshman that she would volunteer with PC’s Up ‘til Dawn philanthropy event, a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Aldridge, along with junior Patrick Greer, served as co-executive directors of the fundraiser that is in its fifth year at PC. In the five years, PC students have raised more $60,000, comparable to the amount raised by Clemson University.
“Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, once said, ‘No child should die in the dawn of life,’” Greer said. “I personally believe that through Up ‘til Dawn, Presbyterian College can make a difference at St. Jude.”
While the actual Up ‘til Dawn event was held March 11, Aldridge and Greer have been working behind the scenes for a while. During the school year, the two educated the PC campus about St. Jude through various activities, culminating in the final Up ‘til Dawn letter writing campaign where participants honored a patient from St. Jude.
This year, approximately 300 students participated, sending out over 5,000 letters. In the letter-writing campaign, students compose letters to friends and family requesting donations for the patient being honored.
Every year, St. Jude locates a patient from the area to speak at Up ‘til Dawn. This year, PC was lucky enough to have two families tell their story.
“Up ‘til Dawn is one of the many amazing parts of PC,” says Aldridge, “and I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to be a part of this cause and help fight childhood cancer and diseases.”
“The night is filled with exciting games, guest speakers, delicious foods, and memories to last a lifetime,” Greer said.
Participants are placed in teams to compete for grand prizes. All that is asked in return is that each participant bring over 50 addresses and for this they are given a free t-shirt. The amount of money raised for St. Jude will be determined around mid-April.
St. Jude Children’s Hospital covers all expenses for families who have children being treated, including medical costs, transportation costs, housing for families, and meals. It costs more than $1.8 million per day to operate St. Jude, the majority of this money coming from donations and fundraisers like Up ‘til Dawn. While St. Jude is one of the best research centers for pediatric cancer and other childhood diseases, it is also often called the Disney World of hospitals.
“The children ride in Red Flyer wagons to get from place to place in the hospital. They have proms and preschool graduations and a school within the hospital,” said Aldridge, who had the opportunity to visit to St. Jude.