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For my daughter Millie’s 13th birthday, a friend and I made a quilt that had photographs of my daughter all over it. Millie’s so proud of that quilt, and it’s on her bed today. My impressions of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital also resemble a patchwork quilt—a colorful jumble of memories, experiences and events that have touched my life.
The first piece was cut many years ago, when I toured St. Jude, sang some songs in the lobby and met a few of the courageous families. That was such an emotional trip. But I loved St. Jude, and I saw what a great contribution music was in that environment.
A second piece of my personal quilt was fashioned during a quiet moment with a patient. On one visit to St. Jude, I met a girl who was there for the second time because her cancer had returned. The most memorable moment I’ve had with a patient was with that young woman. I asked everybody to leave the hospital room. She and I just sat there and sang a couple of songs. She was at such a desolate place physically. I really felt that by singing those songs and being there and sharing the music and watching her sing along… for just a minute we kind of shared the same space. She did not survive her cancer, but I still think of her today.
After I became a parent, my impressions of St. Jude assumed a deeper hue and texture. I walk down those halls, and I’m always thinking, ‘Oh, that boy is just one year younger than my son.” Or, “That child is just a month older than my daughter.” You’re constantly putting yourself in the shoes of the people there.
Another patch in my “quilt” occurred when my relationship with Target Stores enabled me to help raise money for the construction of Target Houses I and II. Families can live in these beautiful facilities while their children undergo treatment at St. Jude. I’ve spent a lot of time in hotel rooms, and I know what it’s like to be away from home. Imagine the stress of being a parent with a sick child and living in a strange place. But then you go in Target House and think, “Oh good! A place I can close the door! Alone time! A place to throw a fit! Hallelujah!”
Lately, I’ve been the spokesperson for a fund-raising project that involves actual quilts—Hancock Fabrics’ Quilt of Dreams project. This ambitious undertaking combines the talent and dedication of thousands of quilters around the country. Hancock designed 37 special fabrics from which individuals have been making lap quilts inspired by the hopes and dreams of St. Jude patients. It’s such an affirming thing for something as useful and beautiful as a quilt to include the words of children and their wishes and dreams. I’m so excited to be a part of this project.
There are many small ways that you and I can help the patients of St. Jude. As we all join together in promoting the hospital’s mission, our actions can create a glorious patchwork of hope and healing for the children of the world.
Reprinted from autumn 2004 Promise magazine