In the 1950s, when Danny Thomas was drumming up support for what would become St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, he and his wife Rose Marie criss-crossed the country by car, once visiting 28 cities in 32 days.
That was an incredibly hectic pace for the time, and I think of them often while on my own travels every month to help raise funds and awareness for St. Jude. Danny and Rose Marie inspired countless people along the way — generous, caring people from all walks of life who were willing to do whatever it took to help desperately ill children. They formed the foundation of what became known as “Danny’s Army.”
But the opening of the hospital didn’t mark the end of Danny’s Army. In fact, the supporters of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital were just beginning. They believed they had a responsibility to the families who turned to St. Jude for help, and I am privileged to meet so many of you who feel that way today — who are united in your commitment to St. Jude and our promise to not give up in the fight against childhood cancer.
There are many amazing stories of your support, but I’d like to share just one example. For more than 30 years, a group of hardy souls and staunch St. Jude supporters have run 465 miles from the hospital’s campus in Memphis to Peoria, Illinois, to raise money for the hospital and make people aware of our lifesaving work. This year they took to the road the last week of July. Not only are there people who choose to run this distance in the heat of the summer, but there are others — some with just a couple of weeks of vacation a year — who devote that vacation time to supporting the runners. They drive RVs and other support vehicles; they cook for the teams; they help keep the runners and caravan going mile after mile. And in all the towns they pass through — in Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois — communities turn out to support them, donating money to St. Jude, cheering the runners, often bringing hot food or donuts to the runners and their teams in the middle of the night.
This scene is repeated on a smaller scale in 38 other cities and towns that have started other runs to Peoria, all culminating on the same day with the Memphis run, and since the first run in 1982, helping to raise more than $45.6 million for St. Jude.
But this event , and so many others, wouldn't happen without people like you — individuals and families and entire communities who come together every day to make sure that the groundbreaking research and treatment of St. Jude continues and help ensure no family receives a bill from St. Jude for anything.
You are the people who make it possible for families to focus on helping their children live — thank you for all you do for the kids of St. Jude.