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From tips on fundraising using Facebook to improving health outcomes through hand-washing, participants in the inaugural St. Jude International Forum shared their experience and ideas that could help children around the world.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has long been a global leader in the fight against childhood cancer and other deadly diseases. Twenty years ago, St. Jude established its International Outreach Program (IOP) to share knowledge, technology and organizational skills with 20 partner sites in 14 countries.
More than 50 people from the foundations that support these medical partner sites met in Memphis June 26 – 30 for an unprecedented opportunity to exchange ideas during seminars that covered topics related to patient care and fundraising.
Arli Melo Pedrosa, PhD, director of housing support for the program in Recife, Brazil, said the information exchange was rich. “It is very nice to share experiences,” she said. “What is difficult for one country is sometimes not difficult for another.”
Among forum attendees was Ana Lina Bonilla, who brought her son Daniel to St. Jude in the 1980s when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Although Daniel ultimately lost his battle, Bonilla returned to St. Jude in 1993 to seek help in bringing that expertise to El Salvador. St. Jude’s partner site in El Salvador was the genesis of the IOP, and today, Bonilla is the president of the clinic’s supporting foundation.
As Bonilla considered the development of the program in El Salvador and around the world, her eyes filled with tears. “It’s actually the meaning and the answer of my son’s death,” she said.
St. Jude founder Danny Thomas always dreamed of exporting the mission of St. Jude internationally, said Richard Shadyac Jr., CEO of ALSAC/St. Jude. “He would be the happiest man to know that 14 countries are here to learn more about St. Jude,” Shadyac told the visitors.
Gaston Rivera, MD, medical director of international outreach to Chile, shared a success story of a bone marrow transplant program established in Santiago in 1999 with guidance from St. Jude. Today the clinic has provided more than 250 transplants.
In December 2012, the Chilean children’s cancer foundation Vivir + Feliz opened an ambulatory care center for pediatric bone marrow transplant patients, modeled on St. Jude. Called TROI (Centro de Transplante y Oncologia Integral), this center has a holistic approach to treating the child that includes therapy through laughter, art, music and games, said Arie Rezepka, executive director of Vivir + Feliz.
“We all know Danny Thomas dreamed that no child should die in the dawn of life. We deeply share that dream,” Rezepka said. “I am offering any help that would allow the replication of the TROI model to continue building spaces of hope and magic and much happiness.”
That spirit of sharing was on display throughout the event, and Cecilia Villa, executive director of International Partnerships for ALSAC/St. Jude, hopes attendees will be able to put what they learned at St. Jude to work immediately in their own communities.
“ALSAC’s international efforts include both fundraising initiatives and humanitarian outreach. We are thrilled with the results of our inaugural St. Jude International forum, as all of our foundation partners are ready to implement these new fundraising ideas and integrate tools provided to help more children in their local communities,” Villa said. “We each share Danny Thomas’ vision of St. Jude saving children’s lives around the world and the beautiful message of hope.”