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In 1962, cancer claimed 80 percent of children it struck. Most parents were told to take their children home and to enjoy the few moments they had left.
But Danny Thomas refused to accept that outcome. Because of this, and the fulfillment of his prayer to St. Jude Thaddeus, Thomas founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to give hope to the hopeless. For many children who came to St. Jude in those early years, hope was all that could be offered.
With the opening of St. Jude in 1962, doctors and scientists began focusing their efforts—giving families just a little more time with their children. For many, moments were still cherished, not celebrated. But soon, St. Jude began making strides in treating childhood cancers. Survival rates improved, and the hospital began offering more than hope.
This year, St. Jude celebrates 50 years of finding cures and saving children. Our advancements in childhood cancer research have helped thousands of families move beyond cherishing final moments. Now they have the chance to celebrate milestones.
They can hear their baby’s first words. Feel the wet kisses of their toddler. See their teenage son take his first steps, after a limb-salvaging operation removed his tumor but saved his leg.
Families can watch their children achieve academic milestones, thanks to a school program that allows them to continue their education while away from home. Or send their children off to a formal dance, a momentous event celebrated by patients who are in treatment. At St. Jude, patients have the chance to participate in rites of passage that mark all of our lives.
Perhaps the most celebratory milestone of all is the “No Mo’ Chemo Party,” when children who, years ago, would not have beaten cancer, celebrate their final round of chemotherapy. They are surrounded by their family, friends and treatment team who sing: (to the Oscar Meyer song):
Our patients have the cutest S-M-I-L-Es.
Our patients have the biggest H-E-A-R-Ts.
Oh, we love to see them every day, but now’s the time we get to say …
Pack up your bags, get out the door, you don’t get chemo anymore!
St. Jude will continue to build on the vast amounts of knowledge acquired during the past 50 years. We will continue to fight for children with cancer and other deadly diseases, because we want to give families more than just time together—we want to give them a lifetime together.
Parents can now not only dream of experiencing milestones—graduations, college, careers, weddings and new generations born—but plan for and celebrate the moments.