Jack Hanna speaking to St. Jude supporters at the 2016 Discover the Dream event.
At our Four Stars of Chicago Restaurant Extravaganza in May, it was inspiring to reflect on the role that great city played in the history of ALSAC and St. Jude. Six years before ALSAC was officially launched, Chicago hosted the first fundraiser on behalf of St. Jude, for the 1951 premiere of the film I'll See you in My Dreams, starring Danny and Doris Day. That initial event raised $51,000 for St. Jude and set in motion what today has become an organization charged with raising more than $1 billion each year to help St. Jude achieve bold strategic plans to care for the children of the world.
It was also in Chicago, in 1957, that Danny brought together 100 people to establish ALSAC, declaring that the organization would be “dedicated to the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan,’ to love and care for our neighbor, regardless of color or creed.”
Those first 100 members would go into their communities and enlist other “proud beggars,” as Danny called his growing army of supporters, and the public’s embrace of Danny’s dream of a children’s hospital like no other led to St. Jude’s opening in 1962. Today, we are grateful to the millions of “proud beggars” whose efforts enable St. Jude to continue leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
At another recent event, St. Jude Discover the Dream in Columbus, Ohio, it was deeply touching to celebrate the life and legacy of one of the original ALSAC members who answered Danny’s call.
Joseph Karam was a true American hero, awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star for bravery while serving in Korea, but after he passed away in April, at age 88, Mr. Karam’s obituary said, “His greatest honor was being named ‘Proud Beggar’ by Danny Thomas.”
I can still hear Mr. Karam telling donors why St. Jude needed their support, and how their generosity would help ensure families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
I am humbled, during this special year, to help lead ALSAC’s unwavering effort to continue furthering the mission first set forth 60 years ago by fearless men like Danny Thomas and Joseph Karam — Finding cures. Saving children.®
And I am deeply grateful to all of you joining them as “proud beggars” on behalf of the kids of St. Jude.