Within just a few months, Courtney Farnet has made a real impact on the collegiate fundraising program for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and it has made an impact on her, as well.
Courtney is the fundraising director of Louisiana State University’s St. Jude Up ‘til Dawn event. “It’s just such a rewarding feeling to see where your work is going and see the people you’re helping,” she said. “It really has changed my life.”
Founded in 1999, St. Jude Up ’til Dawn is a nationwide, student-led philanthropic program in which college students raise funds for and awareness of the hospital. Students participate in fundraising that culminates with the all-night challenge. With nearly 100 colleges and about 30,000 student participants, the program raised $2.4 million in 2014 and is aiming to raise $3 million this year.
The LSU event, scheduled for February 20, has a goal of raising $75,000 and is more than halfway there. Courtney has raised more than $35,000 of that sum.
A creative fundraiser, Courtney recently hosted a Create for a Cure booth at a local church festival that gave kids the opportunity to pay $5 and make two bracelets — one for themselves and one for Farnet to deliver to a St. Jude patient.
The bracelet sales brought in $900 but weren’t the highlight of the weekend. A husband and wife saw Courtney’s booth and began asking questions about her work. After listening to Courtney describe St. Jude, the man asked his wife for the checkbook and wrote a $10,000 check on the spot.
“I almost started crying,” she said. “I was so happy, so blown away.”
Courtney's more recent fundraising initiatives include a “Santa’s Little Helper” gift wrapping service to benefit St. Jude and a Courtney’s King Cakes for St. Jude service. The cake promotion proved to be so popular that she found herself baking more than 55 king cakes from scratch within two weeks.
I’ve just found my calling. I’m antsy to get out of school because now I just want to work for St. Jude.
“Any and every way I can fundraise for St. Jude, I’m going to do it,” she said. “I’ve just found my calling. I’m antsy to get out of school because now I just want to work for St. Jude.”
Courtney dedicates her fundraising to a young family friend named Gabby who passed away four years ago after battling cancer. The nine-year-old was not a St. Jude patient, but she inspired Courtney to raise funds to assist all children battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
“Her smile was always so bright. No matter what she was going through, she was always smiling,” Courtney said. “When I’m overwhelmed by school and other things going on, Gabby keeps me going. I do everything in honor of Gabby."
If you're in college or know a student with a passion for helping kids, check out the St. Jude Up 'til Dawn site to find out how you can be like Courtney and stay up for good.