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Nicky's parents want to carry out their son's kind and generous legacy.
Lisa’s life has been linked to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for 13 years.
That’s because her older son, Nicky, was diagnosed with the brain tumor ependymoma 13 years ago when he was 10. She learned about St. Jude while researching the cancer online and found that St. Jude had a good survival rate for that type of tumor.
“They were there at a time when our family needed them, with no strings attached,” Lisa said. “They did everything they could to help him, and I bonded with and loved everyone I came in contact with at the hospital.”
St. Jude put the cancer in remission, but only for a short time. By September 2004, it had returned even more aggressively, and, in February 2005, Nicky lost his battle. He was 13 years old.
But his family has remained connected with the hospital, supporting the research and treatment through fundraising events for St. Jude.
Lisa’s brother, Rich, one of the founders of the restaurant chain RA Sushi, created a special Nicky’s Week at his restaurants 10 years ago to honor and memorialize his nephew. RA Sushi, with 25 locations in the South and West, donates 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of popular menu items to St. Jude during that week. The most recent Nicky’s Week fundraiser, held May 25 – 31, raised more than $178,000. Over the last 10 years, the event has raised more than $1.5 million for St. Jude.
Lisa also serves as founder and organizer for another fundraiser benefiting St. Jude called Handbags for Hope. This luncheon features a silent auction of handbags donated by designers and boutiques. Over the years, the event has raised more than $835,000.
Nicky would expect nothing less from his family, Lisa said. “He had high expectations. He definitely would be proud of us. I think he is the driving force behind all of this. He gives us the motivation.”
The oldest of three children, “Nicky was very outgoing. He was very silly and just had a great sense of humor. He loved to make people laugh,” his mother said. “One of the things I remember about him when we were at the hospital is that, although he hated shots, if he saw a little kid going through it, he wanted to help the kids and comfort them through it as well.”
The support of St. Jude was vital to the family’s journey with Nicky, and Rich said he started Nicky’s Week because he wants to see that support continue for other families.
“St. Jude played a critical role during Nicky’s illness by providing state-of-the-art care and by providing important information to our family,” he said. “I want to help ensure that the programs at St. Jude remain available to any family that is forced to deal with the extreme heartache associated with the serious illness of a child.”
Both of Nicky’s parents go to RA Sushi stores before the annual fundraiser to speak to staff personally so they will have a connection to the St. Jude mission. And Lisa plans to continue her involvement with St. Jude through her support of fundraising efforts.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” she said.