Marie Barbieri of Harrison, New York, will always remember when her family began donating to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It was 11 years ago — shortly after her 5-year-old grandson Peter was diagnosed with the brain tumor medulloblastoma.
Although Peter was treated at a New York hospital, Marie felt a personal connection to St. Jude. “As a child I saw how devoted my aunt was to (the patron saint) St. Jude, and I was so impressed that Danny Thomas made a promise to him to build the hospital,” she said. Marie credits St. Jude research with helping make Peter’s treatment possible.
To support the hospital, Marie and her husband, John, turned to her three sisters and their families for help. Together they organized a community bake sale, and for 11 years the extended family has planned, baked, promoted and solicited giveaway items to raise more than $60,000 for St. Jude.
Peter’s cancer went into remission after treatment — but at age 8, the cancer returned. Peter received additional chemotherapy and radiation and has been in remission ever since. He is now a college freshman.
Peter, his sister, Sara, and their cousins also have “sweet” memories of growing up on St. Jude bake sales — like the year Peter dressed up as Santa to entice buyers to the sale.
A high school junior, Sara also has twice recruited classmates to join her team for the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer in September. In 2015, Team Hope raised nearly $2,000.
Sara is quick to say what motivates her: “I am so grateful to have my wonderful brother here with me even though he has had cancer twice. I do it because I want everyone else who has a brother with cancer to be able to grow up with them.”
And Peter and Sara’s father, Peter Sr., has run as a St. Jude Hero in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, held the same day as the bake sale. The New York firefighter recalls how emotional it was to be cheered on by patient families. “I felt like I knew them,” he said. Another highlight: seeing the tribute brick his mother and his aunt Rose Evangelista purchased on the walkway in front of the hospital.
Even as the elder generation approaches 95 and their grandchildren become adults, Marie is confident the family will continue to join together each December to sell homemade treats to help the children and families of St. Jude.
“We are a close knit family to begin with, but that day is just wonderful — it draws us closer together.”