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In 2004, Marlo Thomas, daughter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital founder Danny Thomas and national outreach director for the hospital, embarked on a whirlwind tour of CEO offices across the country, asking companies to join a new annual program called Thanks and Giving®.
It would be an unprecedented coming together of celebrities, media, retail and corporate partners and the public, Thomas told the CEOs, all in an effort to raise funds and awareness for St. Jude, a place dear to her own heart and a critical research center in the battle against childhood cancer. Tom Ryan, CEO for CVS/pharmacy, was one of the first to sign on to join the St. Jude family.
"Even before entering into a partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, we recognized it as a pediatric treatment and research facility that has changed the way the world treats children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases," said Eileen Howard Dunn senior vice president, Corporate Communications and Community Relations, CVS Caremark "As we came to know more about St. Jude and its programs, we saw that it was a great example of an organization that shared our vision of striving to improve the quality of human life."
Anticipation was high that first year as the public saw celebrities such as Robin Williams, Jennifer Aniston and Antonio Banderas talk of the work of St. Jude. And in retail stores, CVS/pharmacy would lead the charge in raising funds. In its first year, the company raised more than $1 million for the hospital between November and December of 2004, solidifying its stance as one of the major supporters of the hospital. Since then, the company has participated in every Thanks and Giving campaign.
"Giving back to our communities is an important part of our culture," Dunn said. "St. Jude, by providing treatment to all children regardless of ability to pay and by sharing its research and discoveries with the medical community at large is another great example of giving back to the community."
The quick success CVS achieved can be attributed to the company’s vision to use their own mission to support the mission of St. Jude.
Customer service is one of the hallmarks of CVS/pharmacy, with an emphasis on making shopping as easy for customers as possible. This culture of “CVS Easy,” as it is called, rang true during that first Thanks and Giving when CVS instituted an “add-on” at the register. Sales associates would simply ask customers if they would like to add $1 or more to their bill as a donation to St. Jude. The customers responded resoundingly to this simple way of helping children fight cancer.
In 2008, CVS/pharmacy added to the program—usually a sign of increased complexity. But in this case, the addition made giving even easier for customers.
Following in the footsteps of Thanks and Giving partner AutoZone, CVS added a prompt asking for a donation to the credit card pads where customers swipe their debit and credit cards at the register. That extra prompt on the credit pads resulted in CVS increasing its donation to St. Jude from $2.8 million in 2007 to $5.2 million in 2008 and helping earn CVS/pharmacy the 2008 St. Jude Corporate Partner of the Year award.
In 2009, the company raised an additional $6.12 million bringing the total raised since 2004 to more than $19 million, including $16 million to fund what will be known as the CVS Caremark Rehabilitation Services Center.
"In 2006, CVS Caremark established its signature giving program All Kids Can™ which is focused on serving the six million children with disabilities in the country," Dunn said. "The program is a five-year commitment of $25 million to help create opportunities for children of all abilities to learn, play and succeed."
And it was the recognition that children battling cancer may experience developmental, cognitive or physical impairments as a result of their illnesses as well as the treatments used to save their lives that prompted CVS/pharmacy to make their commitment, Dunn said. As a result, the rehabilitation center will double the current space allowing St. Jude staff to better provide audiology, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology services to St. Jude patients. The new space will also feature an open rehab area, separate fitness area, special infant rooms and a separate toddler room. This expansion will begin to position St. Jude as the world leader in pediatric oncology rehabilitation education.
“This new facility will play a critical role in helping St. Jude provide care that not only saves lives, but protects children’s quality of life during treatment for catastrophic diseases,” said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., CEO of ALSAC. "Partners like CVS Caremark help ensure that every child who comes through our doors has hope for a brighter future."
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