Belmont University junior Joe LaMartina was recently spotlighted in a national weekly email update sent out by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for his work with their collegiate program “Up ‘Til Dawn.” The program involves students raising funds for St. Jude by seeking pledges for staying up all night. LaMartina is a member of Belmont’s Up ‘Til Dawn executive board and has been involved with the event for the last two years. The program was started on Belmont’s campus only three years ago, but students have already raised more than $243,000, placeing Belmont among the top five campuses involved in the program out of 60 colleges across the country.
LaMartina’s involvement in the collegiate program took a more personal turn last summer when his younger sister Lily, who is three years old, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer. Her diagnosis came just a week after LaMartina’s first visit to St. Jude. Lily is currently being treated at a local hospital in their hometown of St. Louis.
In his St. Jude feature, LaMartina says the hospital is one of the primary reasons for his hope that Lily will defeat the cancer she is fighting. “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,” LaMartina said.
Since its conception in 1962, St. Jude’s contributions to childhood cancer treatments have increased the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent.
“Seeing how amazing everyone at the hospital was and how amazing the patients were was really inspiring,“ LaMartina said of his visit to St. Jude. “I truly felt like St. Jude was one of the greatest places on earth. My journey over the last year has caused me to fall in love with St. Jude.”
St. Jude is the official philanthropy of Belmont’s Greek organizations, and LaMartina is a member of Belmont’s chapter of Alpha Tau Omega (ATO). On April 7, he received an email from the president of the ATO Foundation congratulating him on this spotlight. The president is a childhood cancer survivor, and he commended Joe on his work inspiring his fellow ATO brothers and students to get involved with St. Jude.
Belmont’s 2017 Up ‘Til Dawn event raised more than $113,000, far surpassing its goal of $100,000. The event took place on January 26 and included activities such as a movie skit challenge, silent disco, four-way volleyball, an obstacle course, a mini golf course, foosball, trivia, a mission room, racquetball and basketball.
LaMartina hopes to serve on Belmont’s Up ‘Til Dawn executive board again next year. He has also applied to St. Jude’s summer Pediatric Oncology Education program.