Students mill about, wandering among tables covered with hundreds of loose sheets of paper and envelopes. Workers in white and blue t-shirts are spread among them, helping the various volunteers. One worker with a blonde pony-tail and red name-tag supervises the others and smiles at the students with encouragement.
"We had cancer in my family," said Ashlee Hunter, program organizer and University of Minnesota-Duluth student. "It makes me happy to know that I can give back in some way."
UMD's Out Cold celebration, a week-long series of light-hearted student events including highlights such as a chicken-strip eating challenge, concluded with a rather odd grand finale: a fundraiser.
Participants in the event were asked to bring 50 addresses of friends and family to send out pre-written letters asking for donation. The letters were provided by St. Jude's hospital. All donations are instructed to be returned directly to the hospital. On average, each letter brings in a $20 donation.
After the letters were addressed and collected, a speaker was brought in to tell about his experience as a St. Jude's Hospital patient.
"I was very moved by the speaker," said one UMD student. "It makes me feel even better about mailing all those letters!"
Pizza, chips, pop and other various goodies were provided for the students, as well as a DJ and a variety games for participants to engage in. Prizes were given away, ranging from gift cards and t-shirts to MN Wild tickets.
"I'm so excited!" said a lucky ticket winner. "I didn't expect to come to a fundraiser and win something too."
Up Til Dawn contacted various businesses and raised awareness about the fundraiser. All of the prizes given to the students were donated for the cause.
"I was surprised," said one of the participants. "I didn't know that fundraising could be so much fun."
The event, held Saturday, was sponsored by Up Til Dawn, a student-led group who helped to organize the fundraiser and guide fellow students through the fundraising process. They hope to raise money to donate to the hospital to help children with cancer.
"I love kids," said Hunter. " I am focusing on early childhood studies so I was very excited to be able to help out."
The Up Til Dawn volunteers worked hard to advertise for the fundraiser. They also helped to prepare the letters and arrange for the various fun events that occurred after the fundraiser.
"Last semester we received $3,750," said Hunter. "We decided to hold a second fundraiser to help out the foundation even more."
The organization hopes to match the funds brought in by last semester's letters. It could be weeks before the letters are returned and donations can be calculated.
The event is held annually at UMD, and at many other schools throughout the state. This is the first year that the letter-writing fundraiser was held twice at the University.