Growing up in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, a little girl named Kay Isaac often heard the names St. Jude and its founder, Danny Thomas.
As a member of a large Lebanese community in the small Appalachian town, Kay remembers her mother, Rose, and her Aunt Mary urging her to pray to St. Jude Thaddeus.
“We had great respect and admiration for and knowledge of Danny Thomas,” she says.
Of course, Kay knew about the establishment of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“The story so impressed me as a young girl about Danny Thomas, in light of his success, dedicating his life to establishing the hospital. This is a great message for us today,” she says, fighting back tears as she sometimes does when talking about St. Jude.
That young girl from Virginia is now Atlanta businesswoman Kay Dempsey, president and CEO of her own insurance brokerage firm, The Dempsey Companies Inc. Her husband, David, who successfully ran an Atlanta advertising company for many years, is semi-retired and works as a consultant in the agency.
The Dempseys are serving as regional chairs of the fundraising campaign for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project. The campaign is working to raise $55 million for the project.
“The scientists and their brilliance are astounding to us. The project is a strategic step,” she says. “It is much akin to bamboo. You plant bamboo, and growth is slow in the early years. Then one witnesses an explosion of growth.”
Always devoted to children’s charities, Kay and David intensified their involvement with St. Jude after Kay visited the hospital in 2008.
“The moment you see the little red wagons, you are amazingly full of hope and blessings for these children,” says Kay, who shares a family connection to Michael Tamer, ALSAC’s first CEO, through her aunt, Julia (Tamer) Isaac.
In addition to their support for the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, Kay and David hosted a dinner for ALSAC CEO Richard C. Shadyac Jr. in 2009, so that he could share the St. Jude mission with potential donors in Atlanta. The Dempseys are planning a similar larger event for this fall. The couple also has made St. Jude the beneficiary of a life insurance policy and plan to leave the hospital a bequest in their will.
After learning about St. Jude research and treatment, Kay says, “You can’t be a bystander.”
Far from being bystanders, the Dempseys are investing in the vision of a brighter tomorrow for children.
“I have been told for many, many years that we should help others have a vision of a bigger future,” Kay says. “This is what St. Jude is doing.”