Varsity Spirity employee Jackie Kennedy, second from the left, with winners of the Team Up for St. Jude award.

A humbling experience

A hospital tour of St. Jude changed one woman's life forever — she used her inspiration to benefit the children of St. Jude.

Before she moved to Memphis, Tennessee, Varsity Spirit employee Jackie Kennedy was unaware of all St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital does in the fight against pediatric cancer. That changed after a tour of the hospital, an experience she described as a “life-changing moment.”

Kennedy became a dedicated supporter of the hospital, and was instrumental in helping to grow her company’s Team Up for St. Jude Spirited by Varsity program, which involves a letter-writing campaign for the more than 350,000 athletes attending Varsity Spirit cheer and dance summer camps. The program recently expanded, encouraging high schools to organize a week of fundraising and awareness for St. Jude around a football or basketball game, and fundraising events at competitions. Varsity Spirit has partnered with St. Jude since 2011, raising more than $3.6 million for the hospital.

“We’re really thinking that this is going to be what drives these students to support St. Jude and become lifetime advocates,” Kennedy said.

Jackie Kennedy speaks at Volunteer Awards Dinner

Kennedy accepts her award at the Volunteer Awards Dinner.

Jackie Kennedy with patients

Kennedy poses with St. Jude patients Kayla and Tyler at the Volunteer Awards Dinner.

This summer, at a dinner honoring volunteers who support St. Jude, Kennedy was honored with the St. Jude Champion Award. This award is given annually to an individual who embodies the cultures of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude, while serving the mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“It was incredible,” she said of receiving the honor. “It was a humbling experience for everyone here at Varsity Spirit.”

Kennedy, 33, has worked for Varsity Spirit since teaching cheerleading camps for the company after graduating high school. Now she is the director of varsity.com, and editor-in-chief of the company’s magazine. Varsity Spirit, the leading global resource for cheer and dance teams, has been the driving force behind cheerleading’s transformation into a recognized athletic activity.

 

Kennedy and other volunteers greet patient Gayatri at Target House with Halloween treats.

Kennedy leads monthly events during which Varsity Spirit employees volunteer at St. Jude Target House, the long-term housing facility for St. Jude families in Memphis, and has also run the half marathon at St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend as a St. Jude Hero each year since moving to Memphis in 2011.

According to Kennedy, the employees at Varsity Spirit have fully embraced the lifesaving mission of St. Jude, and want to continue their support in any way they can.

“Every time someone comes to Memphis and they get a chance to go to the hospital, they get home and email me asking what else they can do.”

Jackie Kennedy, Varsity Spirit employee and St. Jude supporter

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