Child speaker marks Dawn of new program

Mia Washington

Most 6-year-olds spend their days attending kindergarten, playing with toys and watching cartoons.

Kevin Renna is an exception.

Young Renna spoke to members of the University community Tuesday on his experience living with pseudomonas meningitis, a rare disease that affects people with weak immune systems. Renna is extremely sensitive to bacterial infections.

His talk was sponsored by Up ’Til Dawn, a new student-run organization that raises money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tenn.

St. Jude’s specializes in caring for children with extreme disabilities, cancer and other serious diseases. Unlike other hospitals, in which children are not directly informed about their diseases, St. Jude’s encourages patients to talk about their conditions with other people.

One goal of Tuesday’s speech was to help students understand the level of care provided by St. Jude’s. According to Renna’s mother Kate, a patient is never turned away because he or she cannot afford medication; rather the patient’s care is paid through money raised by volunteers.

Renna and his mother explained that 86 percent of every dollar raised goes to the children, paying for expenses that include hotel rooms, meals, flights and medical costs.

Kate Renna said these donations to the hospital are the most important aspect of St. Jude’s because “it takes care of all the technicalities for you, so you can focus all of your attention on your child.”

The Rennas also said the hospital caters to a child’s mentality, featuring a homelike atmosphere consisting of theme rooms with toys to match: wagons instead of wheelchairs and accessible structures for children.

Up ’Til Dawn has begun an extensive fundraising campaign that will continue until next semester.

Although many colleges have participated in Up ’Til Dawn in previous years, this is the University’s first year.

Tuesday’s speaker was the second event of Up ’Til Dawn’s “Week for the Kids!” It followed Monday’s letter-writing campaign in which students wrote to friends, family members and acquaintances asking for donations.

The group also sponsored a “Jingle Bell Run” fundraiser on Thursday evening.

“So far [the week] has been a big success,” said junior Meredith Regan, the Up ’Til Dawn executive director.

On Dec. 17, Up ’Til Dawn will sponsor a cheesesteak sale from Pat’s on campus. Representatives from Pat’s will make cheesesteaks in the Corner Grille and sell them to students.

Students who join Up ’Til Dawn form teams of six or fewer people that participate in various fundraisers throughout the year. Each student participating is required to raise $100 in order to be eligible to take part in a finale celebration in March.

Currently, the University has 125 teams of students participating, which is more than any other school in the nation.

Regan stated that approximately 725 members of the University community are participating in the fundraising.

Regan has been surprised by the overwhelming student turnout.