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With the same celebration that usually ends a championship basketball game, Memphis Grizzlies basketball star Shane Battier clipped the net of a basketball goal and 6-year-old St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient Valery Young yanked it down, celebrating the beginning of a new era for the patients of St. Jude.
The Memphis Grizzlies House is open.
“Now,” said ALSAC National Executive Director Richard C. Shadyac, “our children will not have to stay in any hotel thanks to the Grizzlies.”
The house, which is located on the St. Jude campus, is an integral part of the domiciliary care program at St. Jude. The house provides a comfortable environment for patients and families who are undergoing treatment at St. Jude on a short-term basis, typically from one to seven days. The new home, combined with the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis and Target House, means that St. Jude patients and families will no longer need to stay in a hotel room.
The house is the result of a partnership that was created in April 2002 after the Grizzlies moved their NBA team from Vancouver, Canada, to Memphis, Tennessee. The Grizzlies committed to several relationship-building activities such as having team members visit the hospital and read stories to patients, creating special St. Jude Nights at some Grizzlies home games and donating tickets to St. Jude patients and their families. In September 2002, the Grizzlies extended the partnership by pledging $5 million toward construction of the $10 million Memphis Grizzlies House.
“The sign outside says ‘Memphis Grizzlies House,’” St. Jude Board Chair John Moses told the audience of well wishers which included St. Jude staff, patients and families and the Grizzlies players. “But the Grizzlies have not built a house. They have built a home … a home away from home for the sickest children in the world and their families in their most desperate hour. Today is not a celebration of brick and mortar. It is a celebration of hope.”
The house is approximately 70,000 square feet and can accommodate up to 100 families at a time. Sixty-four of the units are hotel-style rooms for short-term stays and 36 suites are available for longer stays.
The five-story residence features recreation areas for common use, including a large family area surrounded by rooms specifically designed for parents, teens, pre-teens and children. An enclosed playground and basketball half-court are located outside of the residence.
Michael Heisley, majority owner of the Grizzlies, said he and the team felt honored and blessed to be a part of the St. Jude family. “I am one of over a million people that have done a magnificent thing by helping create the culture that exists here,” he said. “I can’t think of a more wonderful thing to be associated with.”
“We (the Grizzlies) have the opportunity to be champions every day,” Battier told the audience.
Battier said he was amazed by the courage to the patients undergoing treatments and the perseverance of their parents. “Trying to defend (Los Angeles Lakers star) Shaquille O’Neal is nothing compared to the struggles that patients and families at St. Jude go through every day.”
Specialty furniture store The Bombay Company, also a St. Jude partner, donated more than $130,000 worth of furnishings to the Memphis Grizzlies House, including mirrors, framed artwork, wall clocks, leather chairs and ottomans and denim kids' chairs with the Grizzlies logo.
The Memphis Grizzlies House was designed by The Renaissance Group, Memphis Tenn., and will be managed by Wilson Hotel Management Company, Inc., a division of Kemmons Wilson Companies.