St. Jude Children's Research Hospital holds an annual Up 'til Dawn fundraising event in the spring where volunteers, patients and families stay awake from midnight to 6 a.m. to play games and fundraise for the hospital.
The hospital is focused on researching and treating children diagnosed with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. "The future is bright" is this year's Up 'til Dawn's theme.
Last year, St. Jude Up 'til Dawn raised more than $27,000, and this year it's planning on raising more than $35,000. Fourth-year public health student Shelby Keith said this funding would go towards food, travel and any other bills the families would owe. The $35,000 would pay for 140 red blood cell transfusions and 70 hours of physical therapy for a person diagnosed with cancer.
Lora Stearns, development representative for St. Jude, said her role with St. Jude is raising awareness and fundraising in North and South Carolina. Stearns said St. Jude is working to raise childhood cancer survival rate to 100%.
"In third world countries, specifically, when the child is diagnosed with cancer, their survival rate is extremely low," Stearns said. "In St. Jude, because we freely share our research, we are striving to raise that survival rate on a global scale within the next 10 years."
Stearns said she's been touched by patients and families while working with St. Jude. She said USC has survivors on campus who are doing well.
"[Former patients] that are now striving and driving and they are in their college years and ... one of them is in the Honors College and they're just starting to make such great strides in their personal lives," Stearns said.
Keith, the executive director of St. Jude's Up 'til Dawn, said she got involved because her friend served in her role before her. Keith said during her time working with St. Jude, she became attached to a patient named Jake, who was diagnosed with cancer when he was 17.
"His family was gonna have to put up their house for sale and everything because it's just so expensive to treat," Keith said. "I can't even imagine juggling the finances as well as just caring for your child who was diagnosed with cancer. So that's kind of why I do it."
Grace Towery is a second-year biology student who serves as an organizer for the event. She was involved in last year's event and participated in a lip sync battle, a mummy wrapping contest and other games during the six hour event.
"It's very exciting, a lot of high energy, which is crazy to think about because it's like, you're staying up all night," Towery said.
Towery said when she was in her transition from sixth to seventh grade, her best friend was diagnosed with lymphoma, and her grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time. She said she loves being a part of an organization that is researching treatments for children and adults.
Towery said she raises most of her money through social media, and her personal goal is $500. She said she's close to meeting that goal four months in advance.
"The main theme [is] 'the future's bright,'" Towery said. "The future is 100% survival."