Jessica Stout and Caitlin Moliske

Award-winners -- Misty Tapp (left), supervisor of national program marketing program for collegiate programs for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, presents awards to SIUC students Jessica Stout and Caitlin Moliske at the St. Jude Collegiate Leadership Seminar recently.  SIUC’s Up ‘til Dawn won the Program of the Year Award and Stout, the executive director of the University’s program, also won the Executive Director of the Year Award.  Moliske is assistant director for SIUC Up ‘til Dawn.  (Photo provided) Download Photo Here

August 17, 2011

St. Jude honors Up ‘til Dawn student group, leader

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- In just two years, Southern Illinois University Carbondale students have raised more than $100,000 to fight childhood cancer and diseases and thanks to those efforts, the University brought home two top honors at the recent St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital 2011 Collegiate Leadership Seminar in Memphis.

Up ‘til Dawn earned the Program of the Year Award while Jessica Stout won the Executive Director of the Year Award.  Stout, event executive director, and Caitlin Moliske, assistant director, are both from Taylorville and the two were on hand to receive the awards.  Up ‘til Dawn is a Registered Student Organization at SIUC under the umbrella of Student Life and Intercultural Relations.  Students plan and organize the philanthropic program.

The 2010 SIUC Up ‘til Dawn event, the second for the group, took place last November at the Student Recreation Center and raised $56,201 for the hospital.  Since 1999, more than 375 colleges and universities across the country have participated in the student-led program, raising funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to help in its quest to find cures and save the lives of children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases.

“Many students and staff played a critical role in this program’s success, but especially noteworthy is the work done by students Jessica Stout and Caitlin Moliske and staff members/advisers Andy Morgan and Amanda Phillips.  I am very proud of these students and staff!” said Katherine L. Sermersheim, associate dean of students for Student Life and Intercultural Relations.

Morgan, coordinator of fraternity and sorority life and adviser for the Up ‘til Dawn RSO, said about 900 students participated in the 2010 event, making it even more successful than the inaugural 2009 event where about 800 student participants raised more than $44,000.

“It is amazing how our student body has embraced this event!  Over 1,000 SIU Carbondale students have helped raise funds for St. Jude and they come celebrate their efforts through the Up ‘til Dawn event.  Incredible student leaders organize this event,” Morgan said.

Prior to the event, students gather the addresses of at least 20 family members and friends and bring them as the “entry fee” to the Up ‘til Dawn event at SIUC.  There they address pre-written request letters to the people at those addresses seeking donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“The students involved with Up ‘til Dawn are truly inspirational.  They are driven by an unwavering passion to fight childhood cancer,” said Phillips, who served as an adviser for the group.

After doing their part to raise money for the hospital, the Saluki crew enjoyed free food, a rock band video game tournament, inflatables, a live rock band and dodgeball, volleyball and basketball tournaments.  The evening also included the Ebony and Ivory Greek Show and plenty of fun for all.

Stout, the daughter of Michael Stout and Marcy Heimsness, and Moliske, the daughter of Michael Moliske and Lori Moliske, are both physiology/pre-medicine majors.  Both are also members of the SIUC University Honors Program.  Stout and Moliske have been involved in the program since its inception at SIUC and Stout, who plans to become a pediatric oncology physician and clinical researcher, actually brought the program to the University after hearing about it at a leadership conference.           

“I knew about St. Jude and how they were a top research institute for childhood cancer, but that day, I learned that it costs over $1.7 million every single day to keep the hospital running and that no family ever pays a single penny of the cost of their child’s care at St. Jude.  As it was already my intent to enter the field of pediatric oncology, I was instantly motivated to join Up ‘til Dawn and their mission to support St. Jude,” Stout said.  She said everyone at SIUC was quick to embrace the idea.

“I have been extremely lucky to work with a wonderful group of passionate, motivated students from SIUC.  It has been the hard work, long hours of planning and dedication of each member of our executive board that has made our program so successful,” she added. 

Stout said the group’s advisers, Phillips and Morgan, were very helpful in molding her into a leader and because of them, as a freshman, she gained the confidence and skills “to lead a group of students to unite for one cause -- to help end childhood cancer.  I have dedicated my life to fighting cancer through my career, but the opportunity to support this mission through Up ‘til Dawn has allowed me to start fulfilling my purpose now.  Our executive board has visited the hospital in Memphis, Tenn., on several occasions, and each time I am reminded how precious life is. While we each go through our own hardships every day, most of us are facing nothing comparable to the kids at St. Jude who are fighting each day just to stay alive.”

The executive board’s 30 members volunteered more than 1,000 hours of their time and energy to make the event happen, Stout said. 

“I am proud to work with the amazing students on our executive board, not just because they have earned the Up ‘til Dawn Program of the Year Award, but because of their selflessness to dedicate their time to helping fight childhood cancer.  They have made it easy for me to lead this program because they are self-motivated,” Stout said. 

She and Moliske also commended the SIUC students who participated in Up ‘til Dawn.  Moliske is as zealous about Up ‘til Dawn and St. Jude’s as is Stout.  Moliske said the group’s efforts at SIUC have not only raised a huge amount of money for the worthwhile cause, helping thousands of children the University students will never meet, but through Up ‘til Dawn, there’s been a “drastically increased awareness about childhood cancers and other catastrophic illnesses across SIUC’s campus.  In only our second year, SIUC’s Up ‘til Dawn program now ranks in the ‘Top 10 Up ‘til Dawn Schools’, where we are currently ranked No. 8.  It is amazing to know something you are so passionate about has become as successful as it has in just two short years.”

The program award is the highest given by St. Jude’s and recognizes the most outstanding overall program -- how the executive board worked together, awareness and public relations efforts, recruitment, fundraising efforts, the side events and the actual Up ‘til Dawn event itself, Moliske said.  She also said it is no surprise that Stout won the executive director of the year award.

“With regards to Jessica Stout winning the executive director of the year award, I cannot think of a more fitting honor.  She lives the mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on a daily basis.  She is truly amazing and leads an exceptional group of student leaders at SIUC to raise money and awareness for the hospital,” Phillips added.

For Stout, the award is not only a most unexpected and appreciated recognition for her leadership but also, a challenge.

“It has motivated me to challenge myself to take the SIUC Up til Dawn to the next level.  With a little extra effort, I know our campus can reach out to our friends, families and our community to teach the about the mission of St. Jude so that we can all work together to end childhood cancer once and for all,” Stout said.

The program and Stout earned recognition at SIUC this spring as well.  Stout was this year’s honorable mention RSO officer for her work with Up ‘til Dawn and the program also won honorable mention for the Outstanding Philanthropic Initiative Award.

Planning is already well under way for the 2011 Up ‘til Dawn at SIUC.  The event is set for Nov. 19 at the Student Recreation Center and those who want to learn more about the event and getting involved can email for additional information.