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Wonder and infinite compassion filled the eyes of more than 100 Partners In Hope as they toured St. Jude Children's Research Hospital—many for the very first time—during the annual Partners In Hope event.
The event, held this past April, recognizes donors in the Partners In Hope program who have continuously supported the hospital for more than 10 years. Partners In Hope are a dedicated and crucial group of supporters for St. Jude, giving each and every month to help the hospital continue its research into the deadly diseases that strike children.
For many, it takes a bit of emotional fortitude to come to St. Jude. They envision a hospital filled with families in despair and somber children walking the hallways. They worry they will see hopelessness.
But once they walk through the doors, the world itself looks a lot brighter. Children’s laughter echoes through the hallways. Vibrant murals of colors adorn the walls. And the feeling of hope is so strong, it is almost made manifest.
All of this engulfs the tour groups as they make their way through the halls. They learn about the Medicine Room, where children can stay anywhere from two to 18 hours receiving chemotherapy. They see the Danny Thomas Research Center where laboratories the size of football fields are constantly buzzing, seeking that new discovery that could unlock the secrets of curing cancer.
And they see the children playing, smiling and being children—despite the fact they have a life-threatening illness.
They see hope.
“I thought it was just a cancer hospital,” said Greg Kroul, a St. Jude Partner In Hope donor from Damascus, Maryland. “But it is more than about the diseases. The focus is on the family.”
Kroul and his wife, Teri, were part of the first group of Partner In Hope donors who toured the hospital that day. They were awestruck by the murals that decorate almost every wall of the hospital and the registration desks that are built low so that the children are a part of the process. They learned how patients are not confined to the hospital unless absolutely necessary. Instead, children are treated on an outpatient basis when possible and are allowed to stay in one of St. Jude’s three housing facilities: The Memphis Grizzlies House, the Ronald McDonald House or Target House.
“Allowing the patients to be outpatient is great,” Teri said. “I can see how that is more beneficial than staying in a hospital bed.”
For donor Robert Maiorana, each time he walks the halls of St. Jude, it reinforces his commitment to helping children around the world beat the deadly diseases that continue to strike.
Maiorana has been a monthly donor since 1972 and was on the original Board of Directors for the St. Jude Foundation of California. He worked with hospital founder Danny Thomas on the telethons of the 1970s and on radiothons in the California area.
But Maiorana’s St. Jude resume doesn’t end at donor and volunteer. In the early 1970s, his niece battled cancer at St. Jude. Unfortunately, she lost her battle. And that’s why the progress St. Jude has made in treating and curing cancer means so much to him.
“It is unbelievable. I am very pleased and excited about all the advancements that have been made in such a short amount of time,” Maiorana said. “St. Jude is one of the most important things we have. All the research is shared so it impacts people from all around the world.”
In addition to tours of the hospital, the donors were thanked for their generosity by David L. McKee, chief operating officer for ALSAC, the fundraising organization of St. Jude and received an overview of the new Chili’s Care Center from John Curran, director of Design and Construction. The Chili’s Care Center is set to open in the fall of 2007 and will house the will house the Department of Radiological Sciences and provide space for future expansion of inpatient activities and new research laboratories.
Donors also heard from St. Jude family Greg and Nancy who shared their story of bringing their newly adopted daughter, Anna Grace, to the hospital for treatment of a brain tumor.
Each donor experienced special moments during the weekend that left them with a new commitment to the hospital. For the Krouls, it was the wheelchair race during their tour that they will remember.
As the group stood along a hallway in the Patient Care Center, two patients seated in wheel chairs rounded the corner, each trying to out-roll the other.
“Sorry” they said as they raced by the smiling group.
“I thought it was great that no one was stopping them,” Greg said. “No other hospital would have allowed that.”
“We are very glad we made the decision to support the hospital,” Greg added. “We see it is making a difference.”