Student hammering a car.
A student hammers at a car during a fundraiser for Tommy Heart Week, 1967.

Tales from the Archives: Fundraising for Charities

Throughout St. Thomas’ history, student organizations have used their collective efforts to raise funds for charitable causes. These groups have used their creativity and ingenuity to devise events to boost their fundraising capabilities.

Tommy Heart Week pin.
A Tommy Heart Week pin, ca. 1954.

From 1947-70, Tommy Heart Week (also known as Charity Week), was an annual extravaganza that embodied the spirit of giving back to the community. This tradition saw student organizations organize many events in one week, all aimed at raising funds for local and national charitable causes.

One of the hallmarks of Tommy Heart Week was its diverse range of activities. From hosting concerts featuring renowned national groups like the New Christy Minstrels and Fifth Dimension, to selling buttons and organizing raffles with enticing prizes such as a date with Miss Minnesota, the week was filled with excitement and enthusiasm. But it was not just about entertainment; students also engaged in more unconventional fundraisers, including a car demolition where, for a mere 10 cents, one could take a swing at a parked car in the lower quad. Another popular event was an “Ugly Man” contest where participants would deck themselves out to be the “ugliest man” and collect pennies in jars placed in front of their photos to decide the winner.

Aquin article on Fifth Dimension.
The Aquin article from April 26, 1968, on The Fifth Dimension playing as part of Tommy Heart Week festivities.

The tradition of giving back continued beyond the era of Charity Week. In 1990, Ireland Hall started a teeter-totter marathon. This event lasted a grueling 72 hours straight, with volunteers teetering away in front of Ireland Hall or on the lower quad to raise funds for the Harriet Tubman Family Alliance. This event became a staple of the campus community for more than 25 years, ultimately drawing in participants from not just Ireland Hall but from across the campus community.

In 2000, a new tradition was born with St. Thomas’ first participation in Up ’til Dawn, a fundraising effort to benefit the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Teams of students were challenged to raise funds through various means, from letter-writing campaigns to bagging groceries for tips at local stores. The yearlong effort concluded with an overnight finale featuring entertainment such as bands, DJs, karaoke and comedians, creating a festive atmosphere of giving and celebration. Notably, the St. Thomas football team emerged as a powerhouse fundraiser, consistently showing up at or near the top the national list of teams raising funds from 2015-19.

Through the decades, St. Thomas has remained steadfast in its commitment to making a positive impact on the world. Tommy Heart Week may have ended in 1970, but its spirit lives on in the enduring traditions of giving and community engagement that continue to this day.