University News

University Recognized Among Best Schools in the Country for Raising Money for Childhood Cancer Research

The University of New Haven was recognized among St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s top five fundraising schools for the 2019-2020 academic year, as students raised more than $100,000 for St. Jude.

October 23, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of students at the up 'til dawn event.
Students at the University’s Up ’til Dawn event in February stayed up all night to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Wahdat Abbas-Rizvi ’21 has fond memories of the University’s Up ’til Dawn event this past February – a party that brought the University community together for a night of fun and fundraising to support kids battling cancer.

A member of the University’s chapter of Up 'til Dawn, a program run by college students across the country in which they raise money for and awareness of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Abbas-Rizvi served as last year’s recruitment director. He created and executed a campaign to let students know about the group’s fundraising endeavors and encourage them to participate.

As part of the finale event, students stayed up all night at the Beckerman Recreation Center in honor of the children they are supporting. At the end of the event is when Abbas-Rizvi learned they’d raised more than $100,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“My reaction to the success of last year's event was tears of joy,” said Abbas-Rizvi, a chemical engineering major. “I was ecstatic to be a part of something that great. The entire academic year was dedicated to helping the children at St. Jude, and seeing what we accomplished left me in tears.”

‘The students are to be commended’

Abbas-Rizvi and his fellow Chargers raised so much money that the University was recognized by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as one of its Top Five Fundraising Schools for the 2019-2020 academic year. More than 850 participants in the University’s Up ’til Dawn program raised a total of $100,118.

“The students are to be commended for their efforts,” said St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “They have helped ensure that no family receives a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing, or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. We are most grateful, and we look forward to our continued partnership on behalf of this important mission.”

Abbas-Rizvi and his classmates had been preparing for the event for months. Late last September, to commemorate Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, students around the country participated in a National Recruitment Week, and Abbas-Rizvi helped organize several fun events at the University, such as a dunk tank, food trucks, and a puppy day. By the end of the week more than 600 participants had signed up and started fundraising for Up ’til Dawn.

‘I felt so alive’

Partnering with other student organizations, Abbas-Rizvi and members of Up ’til Dawn held events throughout the year to encourage students to get involved and to keep fundraising. They held “No Mo Chemo” Rallies – fundraising parties – and prepared for the finale event in February, which included food, music, performances, and inflatables.

“This is an event that has always attracted a lot of participation, and it happens for an important reason,” said Abbas-Rizvi. “I felt so alive at last year’s event, and I realized that not many 20-year-olds can say they have had a part in raising more than $100,000 for cancer treatment and research.”

Abbas-Rizvi is the executive director of Up ’til Dawn this year, and he is serving as a liaison between the University and St. Jude. This year’s Up ’til Dawn event is scheduled for February 27, 2021, and Abbas-Rizvi is looking forward to another successful and fun year.

“The University of New Haven has been, is, and will always be a big supporter of Up ’til Dawn and St. Jude,” he said. “Last year’s success is very important for the University because we are right at the top with the biggest schools in the country. That is an achievement the University and every participant should be proud of. Making such a big difference in the lives of children and families while having fun is amazing.”