Belmont University junior Joe LaMartina has a very special reason for his commitment to St. Jude through the collegiate program, Up 'til Dawn. For this junior at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, St. Jude offers one of the primary reasons for hope that his sister Lily, 3, will defeat the cancer she is fighting. And that is why Joe is completely committed to raising funds for St. Jude.
For the last two years, he has done that through the collegiate fundraising program Up ‘til Dawn, in which students raise funds for St. Jude by seeking pledges for staying up all night. More than 700 participants registered for the Belmont event that began at 11 p.m. Jan. 26 and ended at 6 a.m. Jan. 27, raising more than $113,000 for St. Jude. Belmont is among the top five campuses for the program so far this year.
As a member of the college’s Up ‘til Dawn executive board, Joe visited St. Jude this summer. That visit occurred just a week before his sister received her diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common childhood cancer. Lily is being treated at a local hospital in their hometown of St. Louis.
“Even though Lily has not been treated at St. Jude, I am incredibly grateful to St. Jude because the research they have done and continue to do is helping to save Lily’s life,” said Joe, 21, who is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology. Treatments invented at St. Jude have increased the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent when the hospital opened to more than 80 percent today.
“Seeing how amazing everyone at the hospital was and how amazing the patients were, was really inspiring,“ Joe said of his visit to St. Jude. “I truly felt like St. Jude was one of the greatest places on earth.”
New to Up ‘til Dawn, Belmont has been a very successful site for the program, which was established in 1999. In just three years, Belmont has raised $243,000 for St. Jude. Activities at this year’s event included a movie skit challenge, silent disco, four-way volleyball, obstacle course, a mini golf course, foosball, trivia, a mission room, racquetball and basketball.
The program has become part of the campus culture, and St. Jude is the official philanthropy of Belmont’s Greek organizations, said Joe, who hopes to serve on Belmont’s Up ‘til Dawn executive board next year. He has also applied to St. Jude’s summer Pediatric Oncology Education program. “My journey over the last year has caused me to fall in love with St. Jude.”