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Rick Shadyac, president and CEO of ALSAC, with families

Little things go a long way


ALSAC President and CEO Richard C. Shadyac Jr. shares stories of young people giving all they have to help the kids of St. Jude.


A letter arrived at the offices of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, along with a single dollar bill and 40 cents in nickels and dimes. 8-year-old Caroline wrote, “I’m donating my mony to you guys becuase a mirical comes from the heart.”

a note from eight year old Caroline, a St. Jude supporter

A note from 8-year-old Caroline, a St. Jude supporter

A simple sentiment. A simple gift. But the letter is so much more as it contains all the heart and hope and optimism of childhood.

I’ve always been inspired by young people. As early as the 1950s and ‘60s, they rallied to raise money for our mission with the St. Jude Teen March. Many of them are still supporters to this day, and many have passed the mantel of giving onto grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I’m one of them. I grew up with the mission of St. Jude in our home — my father was one of the first to take on Danny Thomas’ dream and help make it reality. Danny’s children and grandchildren remain deeply involved with the mission as well, and I’m blessed to work alongside them and so many other families across the country with generations of supporters.

And I’m awed by those involved in fundraising and awareness campaigns through their schools’ Math-a-Thons™and Trike-a-Thons™, Up ‘til Dawn® on college campuses, through social media, fitness events or our St. Jude PLAY LIVE® gaming platforms. During this time of year with high school and college graduations, I’m renewed with inspiration for where the next generation might take their passion for the St. Jude mission.


Sean Kenney has taken his around the world after coming to St. Jude as a 3-year-old with a brain tumor. He underwent surgery and survived. When the tumor came back as a teenager, more aggressively, treatment left him with lingering side effects, including the inability to speak or swallow.

Sean never gave up and today the veteran world traveler speaks four languages and is an aid worker in Lebanon, where 1.5 million Syrian refugees have settled. It’s the ancestral home of Danny Thomas, a fact not lost on Sean, who says he’s inspired every day by St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of lost causes, for whom the hospital was named. His mom says, “Sean has this incredibly generous heart. I like to think that’s because of us, but I think it’s also got to do with his experience at St. Jude.”

Sean Kenney in the Bakka Valley of Syria

Sean Kenney in the Bakka Valley of Syria

Danny said of St. Jude, “If we built this whole place and saved one child’s life, it would be worth it.” And just look at the life of Sean, impacting so many more around the world.

In this time of new beginnings, I’m grateful so many young people will be starting careers and furthering their educations with the kids and families of St. Jude on their minds and in their hearts. It’s a commitment that goes beyond fundraising, as Gen Z has named St. Jude the number one place they want to work, truly making our mission a part of their lives.

And I’m grateful for supporters like Caroline, who wrote, “I know 1$.40¢ dosent seem like alot but little things go along way.”

Bless you, Caroline, and thank God for your wisdom at such a young age.

A college student at an Up 'Til Dawn event

A college student at an Up 'Til Dawn event


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