By Hannah Neumann
For Alexandria, La., junior Tori Hinton, St. Jude Children’s Hospital is not another charity, it’s a life saver.
With a special place in her heart for the hospital, Hinton, director of Up ’til Dawn at Baylor, is working to give back to the hospital that gave her a second chance at life.
Up ’til Dawn is a fundraising approach to help St. Jude find cures and save children battling with cancer and other deadly diseases.
Houston sophomore Sara Stephens, co-director of recruitment for the Baylor chapter of the nationwide movement, said the goal is to raise money for the hospital in teams, with a big event at the end for their efforts in raising funds.
“Each team has six people in it and a goal of $600 to raise,” she said. “It’s more freelance than most organizations, but it is one of Baylor’s most recent service organizations and each team has a set date that they want to reach this goal by.”
The end date for each team to meet their goal this year is Friday.
“From there, we organize a huge event that is kind of their reward and they get to meet patients as well as their families,” she said.
Stephens said though the event will be a great time, the real reward is what benefactors and patients gain from the experience.
For patients in the hospital, this includes a home, which Hinton experienced firsthand.
“When I was in fifth grade I got really, really sick and my parents had to pull me out of school because the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me and I had to do all these tests,” she said. “Finally, one day they sat me down and told me I had leukemia. That night, me and my mom packed a bag and went to St. Jude.”
Hinton said after the seven hour drive from Louisiana, she arrived at 3 a.m. and was taken care of immediately.
“They put me up in a room and started running tests and just got my treatment going,” she said. “I did treatment there for almost three years, and it was on my 14th birthday that I did my last chemo treatment.”
During her time at the hospital, Hinton said she and her family never received a single bill and that is something that drove her to give back.
Stephens said this is why donations to the organization are so important.
“What makes it so essential for donations is that none of the patients there or their families pay a dime,” she said. “The hospital takes care of everything from chemotherapy bills to housing to food, to absolutely everything so that the families can focus on their child as their getting through this hard time.”
As a psychology major, Hinton aspires to be a child life specialist at St. Jude’s in the future. She said her experience in Up ’til Dawn for the last three years has provided her with even more ambition to follow her career goals.
“Seeing patients have the opportunity to be where I’m at one day, because of what we’re doing here, is just incredible,” she said. “You know, I’m just super thankful to be able to come to college and have this second life that I never thought I would be able to have and I hope these kids will be able to be in my position one day and give back also.”
According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, cancer is the No. 1 cause of disease-related death in children.
“Childhood cancer is just devastating because it affects every stepping stone in life,” Hinton said. “I just don’t think that any kid should have to go through what for me, was one of the hardest things ever.”
Stephens said by visiting St. Jude’s Up ’til Dawn website and searching ‘Baylor,’ students can sign up until Friday to join a team and start fundraising. Hinton said while they encourage students to be active in this, donations are accepted year-round.
“Our site is working all year,” she said. “After this, we’ll donate all the money we’ve collected this year and start over. So we could start raising funds next month towards next year’s donation. It’s always open and available.”