Thanks to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, students at a small Catholic school in Illinois learned two important lessons recently: One person can make a difference in the world, and every penny counts.
Darcy Mollo, the fine arts teacher at St. Michael the Archangel School in Streator, Ill., was so moved by a tour of St. Jude that she decided to make St. Jude founder Danny Thomas the topic of an annual fine arts project that focuses on a famous person.
“The care and love that is displayed at the hospital is nothing less than miraculous,” she said. “Danny Thomas’ story is amazing.”
As a struggling young comedian, Danny made a promise to St. Jude Thaddeus: “Help me find my way in life, and I will build you a shrine.” After he became an internationally known entertainer, Danny began working to establish a hospital devoted to curing cancer and other life-threatening diseases in children. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent when the hospital opened to more than 80 percent today.
St. Michael students in grades one through eight incorporated the story of Danny and St. Jude into a school project. Younger children made books, while older students wrote and delivered speeches on the impact Danny had in the lives of sick children and how they could make a difference at their ages. The experience also inspired the students to raise money for St. Jude, so Mollo suggested that they collect one mile of pennies — equaling 84,480 pennies, or $844.80.
“The students were so excited after I explained the idea that I received about 14 bags of pennies the very next day,” she said. They completed their first mile in three weeks.
The students learned that the hospital is operated primarily on donated funds and that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food. Mollo said the students also discovered the importance of making sacrifices and decided to go the extra mile — working to collect 84,480 more pennies. By the end of the school year, the St. Michael students had raised $1,338.64 for the kids of St. Jude.
“I think all of the students know someone who is fighting this illness and know that they need to help when and wherever possible,” said Mollo, who plans to continue her support for St. Jude. “The students and I will continue the fight for the children.”