University Relations and Communications

MSUB students put sleep aside to help kids with cancer

January 13, 2012



Jeff Rosenberry, Housing and Student Life, 657-2376
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Event on Feb. 2 will help raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — The term “burning the candle at both ends” can apply to many college students. But in early February, some dedicated students at Montana State University Billings will carve out precious time from homework and sleep to help children battling cancer.


“Up ’til Dawn” is a student-led, student-run program that helps raise awareness of pediatric cancer and support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It has hosted by more than 375 colleges and universities across the country since the program’s inception in 1999.


At MSU Billings, teams of students, faculty and staff will gather the evening of Thursday, Feb. 2 for a night of games, entertainment, food and letter-writing to help raise money for the pediatric cancer research.  They will meet in the Student Union Building Ballroom at 9 p.m. following the Yellowjacket women’s basketball game and will work until the wee hours of the next morning.


"" Participants will share some food, listen to music from local musician Katie Kemmick and even take in a Bingo game. Around and in between those events, the teams will personally address hundreds of fundraising letters to family, friends and acquaintances to help St. Jude.


It will be a fun and collaborative way to make a difference, said Justine Simons, the student leader organizing the event. Students will be generous in their time and they hope their family and friends will be generous with their dollars.


“St. Jude knows that college students don’t have a lot of money to donate, but we do have a lot of contacts and we can contact them to help,” she said. 


Those who bring in 35 addresses for contact can register for a $250 VISA gift card. Those who bring in 50 contact addresses can register for a drawing for a new iPad.


Simons, a senior elementary education/special education major from Laurel, has been working since last fall with a core group of other students on organizing the event. They have nearly gone door to door in the residence halls, will promote it with “Unite to Fight” awareness at a Jan. 21 basketball game and will ask fellow students to donate money for a pie-in-the-face victim.


Up Til Dawn Group Simons, who also competes for the Yellowjacket track and field team as a sprinter and has been involved in leadership programs at MSU Billings, said she got an eye-opening firsthand look at the kind of work St. Jude does on a trip to the Memphis, Tenn., facility last summer.


She recalled the caring generosity of the medical professionals and the impact of their research. Parents who arrive at the facility are often panicked about how to pay for the care and services they get. But thanks to fundraising events such as Up ’til Dawn, no family is turned away because of an inability to pay.


“And that’s truly amazing,” Simons said.


MSU Billings are the only two Montana colleges participating in the challenge this year, she said. While the specialized research is done two time zones away, the impacts could very well be local.


“The research that they do is shared freely throughout the world and children with cancer in Billings and Montana could potentially be helped by St. Jude,” Simons said.


St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital opened on February 4, 1962 and was founded by the late entertainer Danny Thomas. Its mission is to find cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. St. Jude has treated children from all 50 states and from around the world and on average, 7,800 patients visit the hospital each year, most of who are treated on an outpatient basis.


Since 1999, the Up ‘til Dawn program has raised more than $32 million for St. Jude.


This is the second year for the endeavor at MSU Billings. Last year, the students raised about $5,000 and Simons said they hope to double that this year. Sporting orange T-shirts with the message “Ask me what I’m hunting,” they have been generating interest by telling others they are “hunting for a cure.”


Students involved this year with Simons are Patti Hellman, Kylie Downs, Ashlee Rangitsch, Becca Morgan, Carlos Hernandez, Cody Fergen and Kelsey Komar. Staff advisor is Jeff Rosenberry, assistant director of housing and student life.


For more information on the event, contact Rosenberry at 657-2376 or check out “Up-til-Dawn-Montana-State-University-Billings” on Facebook.


PHOTO ABOVE: MSU Billings students involved in an “Up ’til Dawn” effort to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are, from left to right, Kylie Downs, Ashlee Rangitsch, Becca Morgan, Justine Simons, Carlos Hernandez and Patti Hellman. Others involved but not pictured are Cody Fergen and Kelsey Komar. The “Up’til Dawn fundraiser event is set for Thursday night, Feb. 2.