There is a quote by Amelia Earhart in the lobby of our office building on the campus of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.”
St. Jude Global represents the opportunity to plant and cultivate a forest of new trees.
This new initiative, recently announced by St. Jude, seeks to influence the care of 30% of the 300,000 children per year who are diagnosed with cancer around the world. St. Jude supporters, and their many acts of kindness and generosity, are the roots of that change in the global fight against cancer and other diseases that could take children’s lives.
We were blessed to have two visionary women who are the very embodiment of that change visit St. Jude recently.
Gloria De Dios is the CEO of AYUVI, the fundraising foundation for the National Unit of Pediatric Oncology (UNOP), a St. Jude affiliate clinic, in Guatemala. Families there make around $250 a month, yet chemotherapy treatments can cost $60,000.
Far too often, parents in developing countries have to make a choice for or against treatment, when really there shouldn’t be any choice at all.
“That’s not a luxury,” Gloria said, “that’s dignity.” Under her leadership, fundraising has skyrocketed from $3 million to $11 million since 2007, and the survival rate in her clinic has risen from 20% to almost 70%.
I had the good fortune of visiting AYUVI, and it is like a tiny St. Jude in the mountains of South America, something for which all of our supporters should be proud. It is making a difference for so many families because Gloria understands the value of collaboration and continuous learning.
She knows that knowledge is power and that with knowledge comes infinite possibilities. “Teach me and I will learn,” she said. “Lead me, and I will follow.”
In Davao City on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, Dr. Mae Dolendo treats children who come to her carried in hammocks, on outrigger boats and by bus to get the care they need. In 2004, she had only four beds dedicated for kids with cancer and the survival rate was less than 10%.
Through regular communication and collaboration with researchers at St. Jude, the facility now has 50 beds and the survival rate at her facility has risen to 50%.
To graphically illustrate their progress, Dr. Mae Dolendo said that when her clinic held its first childhood cancer survivor’s day in 2007, only 11 former patients came. Just 10 years later, more than 400 survivors attended.
“St. Jude decided to care for kids whom they haven’t even seen 8,000 miles away,” Dr. Mae Dolendo said during her visit. “This is the impact of St. Jude to us.”
This is the impact of you, our donors, volunteers and supporters. From Guatemala to Lebanon to China and the Philippines — to kids in need here at home — your impact on families the world over, through your support of St. Jude, is proof of what is possible with simple acts of kindness.
As we head into September — Childhood Cancer Awareness Month — followed by the holiday season, I hope and pray that you will remember to practice these acts of kindness. I thank you for all that you do for the kids of St. Jude and for kids all around the world.