Students from Belmont University’s Up ’til Dawn student organization could be seen all across the country on Saturday morning as they revealed their 2018 fundraising total for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on national television. The highly anticipated total, $146,180.78 — the highest since the student organization was founded on campus in 2015, was revealed live on Fox and Friends at 6:50 a.m. by the Up ’til Dawn Executive Board, led by Executive Director and Belmont senior Joe LaMartina.
More than 300 students were awake all night, celebrating their successful year in the Beaman Student Life Center with games, inflatables, a pizza party, dancing, sports, Zumba classes, special challenges and more. Students must create teams and raise at least $100 each to participate in the night’s festivities where they stay up in solidarity with patients and their parents who are awake all hours of the night during the height of their treatment at St. Jude.
This year, the group’s final total was more than $25,000 higher than their original goal, a feat LaMartina said he always dreamed of and was secretly hoping for. “Knowing the heart of Belmont students, I knew we could blow right past our goal of $120,000 and raise more than we ever thought possible,” he said. “These students are amazing, and it has been such an honor to serve as Executive Director of this year’s event.”
LaMartina, the focus of the national coverage, has a very personal connection to St. Jude and their work to cure childhood cancer. His 4-year-old little sister Lily was diagnosed with Precursor B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in the summer of 2016, and though she’s now in remission and doing well, her treatment protocol will continue for another year and a half. Lily hasn’t been treated at St. Jude, as she doesn’t live in Tennessee, but LaMartina credits much of her health to the hospital’s willingness to share their research with other facilities across the country.
“I work so hard for Up ’til Dawn, simply, because I want to end childhood cancer,” LaMartina said. “I want no other child to have to go through what Lily has gone through. A child should be fighting for their dreams, not fighting for their life.”
Money has continued to pour in since the students unveiled the total on Fox and Friends and now, the running total has reached $148,170.56.