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'Up 'til Dawn' mails 15,000 letters
Kimberly Gerdes
Antelope Staff
Photo by Kimberly Gerdes
Sara Sindt, sophomore pre-nursing major from Alma, and Amy Hartigan, sophomore pre-nursing major from Omaha, bundle some of the 15,000 letters that were written during the Up 'til Dawn event. The number of letters sent rose from last year by 4,000.

Parents’ worst nightmare is to have their child diagnosed with a life-altering illness.  They panic and live in fear that they are going to lose their child, but they would never think that college students would be the ones to help support them in such a stressful time.

St. Jude's Up ‘til Dawn program is a student-led, student-run philanthropic program on 385 campuses across the nation.  Their motto "One night. One cause. Our campus." unites students from all areas of campus with the goal to end childhood cancer by helping raise awareness and support for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Last year close to 250 UNK students showed up and sent out 11,000 letters.  Those 11,000 letters translated to raising just over $40,000 for St. Jude. This year they almost doubled the number of students who participated, and those 500 students sent out 15,000 letters. 

"We were absolutely blown away by last year’s numbers, and our goal this year was very ambitious.  We wanted to double the number of students participating," said Tracy Lungrin, Greek advisor and St. Jude Up ‘til Dawn advisor.

"Students have enormous hearts. They just don't have the means to give monetary donations.  What they can do is give their time," said Amy Kratochvil, junior political science major from Kearney and executive director of St. Jude Up ‘til Dawn.

The letters students took time to fill out and send to their friends and family talked about St. Jude’s mission and explained the benefit that a one-time donation had on the students and people at St. Jude.  "The idea is that more people will donate because they are being asked by someone special and connected to them, rather than just receiving a mailer from the hospital itself," Lungrin said.

The night also included speakers from Aidan's Angels.  Selena Wardyn, aunt of a patient at St. Jude, from Grand Island and Audrey Lukasiewicz, grandmother of the same patient, from St. Paul spoke to students about one of the most tragic experiences that any parent or family could ever imagine going through.

They talked about how St. Jude has made the experience easier to deal with because of all that they do for their patients and families. They told the group present that they had not paid for anything that health insurance didn't cover and that Aidan was in the best hands as far as doctors and health practitioners go.

"Their presence and talk at our St. Jude event made the evening so much more meaningful and reiterated that we were not just raising money for kids around the world, we were helping to raise money for one of our very own local Kearney families and specifically a child of UNK alumni," Lungrin said. "I think our goal as a campus community should be to continue to grow this amazing campus-wide fundraiser."

The Up ‘til Dawn Web site states the main focus of their efforts: "Students who write letters honor the patients of St. Jude who bravely fight cancer.  With the money their campuses raise, these students help advance the mission of finding cures and saving that patients can grow up and go to college, too."

To learn more about this event visit and for more about Aiden's Angels visit the family blog at

Video by Emily Wemhoff

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