JONESBORO, Ark. — The cowbells erupted as students danced around Centennial Hall at Arkansas State University. The joy was not for themselves, though, but for the sick children positively affected by the night’s efforts.
The fundraiser, aptly titled the “No More Cancer Rally”, brought in over $1000 for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as participants shattered expectations.
The doors opened at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 7, 2020 version of The Herald. Read the original version of the story HERE.
As students scanned QR codes at the door and entered into Centennial Hall to the tune of “Toosie Slide” by Drake, hope was in the air. Cowbells, pom-poms, fun-sized candy bars and instructions for setting up donation accounts lined the socially distanced tables. The smell of pizza filled the air as ambassadors all but demanded each student fill their plates to the brim prior to the event.
The ambassadors narrowly avoided disaster when they discovered the absence of any plates, just minutes before the doors opened. Luckily, the now overly appreciated plates arrived, tucked under the arms of an Up ’til Dawn member, mere seconds before the event began.
“September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire rang through Centennial Hall. Someone missed the memo that the calendar had shifted to October just 20 hours prior.
When the event officially kicked off, 38 students filled the seats of Centennial Hall while several others joined via Zoom. Such has become a custom of academia in the wake of the great plague of 2020.
Allysa Weaver, Executive Director for St. Jude Up ’til Dawn at Arkansas State, put those numbers into perspective.
“We expected anywhere from 25-30 people and we had 38 here. So that was superb in our eyes,” Weaver said with a chuckle.
The goal was simple: raise money for children with cancer. The means to reach that goal, though, were not as cut-and-dry.
All students involved had a series of simple tasks to complete. With each task, participants earned points. These points would eventually lead to prizes. Each task involved promoting the fundraiser to a higher degree. Setting a goal of $200 awarded 10 points. Sharing personal thoughts on the importance of the event awarded 20.
The instructions told students to post their own personal donation links to their social media profiles, text friends and family, and send a barrage of emails in an attempt to raise as much money as possible. Every cent mattered, after all.
According to the St. Jude fundraising website, $10 could provide a toy for hospital play areas. A donation of $30 could provide a day’s worth of meals for a family at the hospital cafeteria. A generous donation upwards of $100 could provide crutches to a child in need. Those who donate $250 or more could help provide a red blood cell transfusion for a cancer patient.
At 7:49 p.m., they crossed the $500 mark.
The “Cupid Shuffle” by Cupid came on the loudspeakers and participants took the hint to head to the dance floor. Pom-poms fluttered in the midst of the cowbells ringing as more donations came in. The dancing got a little more joyous.
Those who earned the most points could choose between a few t-shirts, a water bottle, and other knick-knacks. Winners approached the table at the front of the room to pick their mundane prizes. However, the children they helped in the process will receive much greater gifts.
They hit $1000 just 16 minutes later at 8:05 p.m.
Time wound down as the event came to a close. Participants would have the next 24 hours to reach their personal $200 goal. Those who hit the goal would be entered to win one of two grand prizes: an iPad and a new television. The real prize, though, came in the form of a final tally at the end of the in-person event.
At 8:16 p.m., Weaver announced the grand total of $1,062 raised for the children’s hospital.
“It’s always super uplifting and exciting to see Arkansas State care so much for the kids at St. Jude. It’s very humbling,” Weaver said. “Our goal for the year is $100,000. My personal goal is $106,000. I’m hopeful we can surpass what A-State has done in the past. My goal for tonight was $700 and we surpassed that. It feels good. It feels awesome.”
Events and Logistics Director Graylin Kelly was proud of the effort as well. He also noted the organization has more events coming up in October and to keep an eye on their Instagram account for details.
“I think it went really well, especially during a pandemic. To come out and raise over $1000 in less than an hour is pretty significant. Every little bit counts when you’re trying to save kids from cancer.”
With every ring of a cowbell, a little more hope goes out into the world.