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When Danny Thomas opened St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, he believed that the cafeteria should be the heart of the hospital—a place where the St. Jude community would interact, a place where parents and patients would eat side by side with doctors and researchers.
Now, Sterling Jewelers Inc., parent company of Kay Jewelers, Jared The Galleria of Jewelry and a number of regional brands, has refreshed Danny’s dream, creating a new cafeteria for the 21st century St. Jude community.
On June 19, Sterling Jewelers Inc. and St. Jude officially opened the new Kay Kafe, featuring a spacious lounge area, a significantly larger dining area and a variety of new dining options. More than ever, the cafeteria is the focal point of the campus where families and staff can escape and relax away from the treatment areas.
The grand opening ceremony featured Marlo Thomas, national outreach director for St. Jude; Tony Thomas, member of the ALSAC/St. Jude Boards of Directors and Governors; Terry Burman, chairman of Sterling; Mark Light, CEO and president of Sterling; John P. Moses, CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising organization for St. Jude; Dr. William E. Evans, CEO of St. Jude; Joyce Aboussie, chair of the ALSAC Board of Directors, and Robert Breit, chair of the St. Jude Board of Governors.
“When my father founded St. Jude, he envisioned a place of hope and comfort under one roof for children and their families,” said Marlo Thomas. “Kay Kafe perfectly captures his spirit and compassion and dedication to providing the best possible care to the precious children who come through the doors of St. Jude every day.”
In 2006, longtime partner Sterling Jewelers committed $16 million to the expansion of the St. Jude cafeteria. “The kids of St. Jude mean so much to us, and we are thrilled to be part of helping the hospital fulfill its mission,” said Terry Burman, chairman, Sterling Jewelers Inc., and member of the ALSAC/St. Jude Boards of Directors and Governors. “As part of the St. Jude family for many years, Sterling Jewelers Inc. dedicates the Kay Kafe to Danny’s vision. Special thanks to the many Sterling team members whose support helped enable the transformation of the Kay Kafe, and to our generous customers who donated the funds to make it possible. We hope the Kafe will add a new chapter to Danny’s dream.”
When St. Jude opened in 1962, Danny insisted the cafeteria be a place where employees would share their meals with the patients they would be helping. Danny hoped that having a place where those conducting research and providing care could come together would also spur scientists to perform their very best. He never wanted them to forget that they were not just looking for a cure for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, but for little Jessica, or Andrew. It was not a disease they were trying to defeat, but individual lives they were trying to save. And maybe sharing meals with patients and their families would help make that point.
The new Kay Kafe, designed by Roger Ferris + Partners, significantly enhances food services capabilities for St. Jude featuring a wide range of culinary choices for families staying at the hospital during their child’s treatment and for hospital staff who are on the front lines of the fight against cancer.
The newly expanded kitchen also has a separate food preparation area giving chefs more space to create customized meals for inpatients with medical or cultural dietary restrictions and to ensure that patients who may have difficulty eating due to treatment side-effects find palatable food options.
“The patients have been very excited about the new cafeteria,” said Katie Alexander, a clinical dietitian at St. Jude. “The kids are very excited about the gelato (a soft, rich ice cream) and the pastry section. And I think the overall variety the cafeteria offers is amazing for the kids.”
While the goal of the nutritionists at St. Jude is to get the kids to eat appropriate diets, they also want to make sure the children get as many calories as they can from normal eating and not from intravenous fluids. “Of those going through chemotherapy treatments, half do not eat. We’re confident they will be able to find something appealing in the new cafeteria.”
Alexander has even gone so far as to take pictures of the new food offerings in the Kay Kafe for one of her patients in isolation, hoping to entice him to eat something. But even if the variety of the Kay Kafe is not tempting enough, the patients can always request anything they think they can eat and the nutritional staff will work to get it.
The Kay Kafe can accommodate 500 people and serve nearly 1,000 during the busy lunch hour. Just like all the patient care buildings on the St. Jude campus, the Kay Kafe has a child-friendly design that includes lower counters so that patients can interact face-to-face with staff.
Since 1999, Sterling has made numerous contributions to St. Jude, beginning with selecting the hospital as the company’s national charity. Sterling has also endowed the Solid Tumor Clinic, the Patient Registration Area and the Second Floor Lobby of the Patient Care Center.
“Sterling’s continued dedication to St. Jude is making a daily difference in the lives of our patients and their families,” said John P. Moses, ALSAC’s CEO. “Thanks to Sterling’s generosity, the Kay Kafe gives our children a cheerful, welcoming place to share meals with their families and hospital staff outside of the treatment setting. We are truly fortunate to have Sterling’s support for the lifesaving work of St. Jude.”