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Alex Phillips

Alex Phillips
I just want to make sure that when I leave, the program (Up ‘til Dawn) is still strong and still growing."
~ Alex Phillips

Many of the students who volunteer for Up 'til Dawn do it because they simply want to help a good cause. For Alex Phillips, it's personal.

"My little sister passed away at age 6," said Phillips. "She lasted 28 months after her diagnosis. She was only supposed to last six weeks."

Phillips, a senior in marketing and management at Pittsburg State University from Lee's Summit, Mo., is this year's director of the PSU chapter of Up 'til Dawn, a national organization that raises money for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

A PSU chapter was formed last year to help fund St. Jude, which treats children with all forms of catastrophic diseases, and accepts all patients - even if they can't pay. The charitable nature of St. Jude is a godsend to many children and their parents, but that also means the hospital has to depend on donations to pay its $1.3 million daily operating expenses.

"Everything is run with donations, so it's our small part that we can do to help," Phillips said.

Phillips' sister was unable to go to St. Jude because doctors did not know how to treat her rare form of cancer at the time. But that didn't stop Phillips from helping other children have a chance for recovery when she learned about Up 'til Dawn last year.

Up 'til Dawn gets its name from the late-night events the group often sponsors. A letter-writing campaign held last October produced around 5,000 letters soliciting donations. Another will be held this spring.

"Last year we sent out 4,600 letters from both sessions combined, so we've already passed that," Phillips said.

At the end of the spring semester, the group will celebrate their work with an all-night party at which the total amount of money raised for St. Jude will be revealed. Last year's party drew hundreds of students for two bands, a comedian, an inflatable jousting arena, a bungie run, and even a rock climbing wall from the National Guard.

But not all events take place at night. At 2008's Fall Classic at Arrowhead Stadium, Phillips said the PSU team beat Northwest's group by $22.73 during a competitive collect-a-thon. Each team raised nearly $800 from people tailgating at the game, so together they will contribute nearly $1,600 to St. Jude from just one day of donations.

Combine those efforts with the other numerous charitable events she has planned for St. Jude's, and that's a lot of work. Luckily, she doesn't have to do everything by herself.

"I have a really phenomenal board," Phillips said. "Everyone pulls their own weight, and everyone works really hard. The only pressure is that I want to surpass what we did last year."

That's a lofty goal, considering last year's group raised $19,000. But Phillips said she is confident that her goals will be met, and more importantly, the program will continue to grow.

"I'm constantly talking to people and letting people know about what's going on with Up 'til Dawn," Phillips said. "I just want to make sure that when I leave, the program is still strong and still growing."