Students stay up for sick kids

WORTHY CAUSE<br> Elizabeth Lobato, 8, came from Southern California to participate in the Up ’til Dawn fundraising event Monday night at Chico State.

Elizabeth Lobato, 8, came from Southern California to participate in the Up ’til Dawn fundraising event Monday night at Chico State.

Photo By Leslie Williams

When asked about boys, Elizabeth Lobato blushes. The 8-year-old is also quick to note that her favorite color is pink.

On this night, she’s clutching a maroon and white teddy bear. Her left arm rests on her walker.

When Elizabeth was born, doctors warned her parents that she would not survive. Her legs, arms and collarbone were all broken during birth. She was quickly diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta, otherwise known as brittle-bone disease.

Monday (Nov. 13), Elizabeth and her mother, Mary, who live in Riverside, were in Chico to participate in the sixth-annual Up ’til Dawn letter-writing party at Chico State’s BMU Auditorium. With the event, students raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in Memphis, Tenn., by addressing pre-written donation letters to friends and family, which are then mailed out.

Last year, Chico State raised more than $103,000, coming in second place among the many participating schools, behind only the University of Memphis. More than 850 people attended the event and mailed out around 18,000 letters.

This year was bigger than ever, with more than 1,500 people attending and over 30,000 letters mailed, said Brook Freeman, a member of the Up ’til Dawn executive board.

“This is almost double last year,” he said. “It’s pretty incredible.”

St. Jude covers all treatment costs, regardless of insurance status, for patients with cancer, HIV and other genetic or immunologic diseases. Daily operating costs for the hospital are approximately $1,220,004, and that’s why donations are crucial, Freeman said. ‘This event is an easy way to make a large, and real, difference to people who need help.”

Donations allowed Elizabeth to receive the treatments she needed: bone marrow transplants and stem-cell infusion. She is now expected to live to the age of 50, at least.

More than 1,500 people congregated at BMU Auditorium to address letters on behalf of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Photo By Leslie Williams

'When Elizabeth was first diagnosed, we wondered if people even cared if she lived or died,” Mary Lobato said. ‘Now we can see that so many people care, and it’s heartwarming.”

St. Jude treats some 4,900 children daily from all 50 states and more than 70 countries. Since its opening in 1962, the cure rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia has increased from 4 percent to 94 percent, according to the hospital’s Web site.

Last summer, Chico State student and Up ’til Dawn executive board member Kasey Nunn got to see donations in action when she visited St. Jude. ‘There are huge murals, kids riding around on tricycles with IV hook-ups, and there’s such a positive energy,” she said.

By holding the event, Nunn hopes to show other students how important it is to be involved in saving the lives of the children. ‘It’s giving people something tangible,” she said. ‘I’m hoping to give them the feeling I got walking through the hospital.”

Her message reached at least one person in the crowded Bell Memorial Union auditorium. ‘It’s a pretty good feeling that you can save a child’s life or give them hope for a cure,” said Maisha Kamunde, who organized 15 other students to represent the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society.

Other than writing letters, students ate pizza and sandwiches, and watched the talents of yo-yo champ Augie Fash, Chico State cheerleaders and the step team. Attendees also had the chance to win raffle prizes, including a bike, gift certificates to businesses all over town, and Sacramento Kings tickets.

The performers and gifts weren’t the reason for coming, though. The work was all for the children at St. Jude.

‘It makes me feel happy to help kids, but also sad that they’re sick,” said Madison Bassow, an 11-year-old Shasta Elementary student whose father, Larry, was the event’s adviser. ‘It makes a big difference.”