Pay it Forward

Individuals and organizations show their support through St. Jude Thanks and Giving.

Vickie Schutze views her support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as coming full circle.

Patient stories she heard during a 1999 radiothon inspired her to become a monthly St. Jude Partner In Hope.

“Giving to a charity wasn’t something I felt I had budgeted for, but it was certainly something I needed to do,” Schutze recalls.

She is now senior manager of executive customer relations for Kmart, the leading corporate partner in the St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign. Schutze actively supports the company’s efforts to raise funds and awareness for St. Jude. She has headed individual and team fundraising efforts, from collecting pop tops to encouraging coworkers to make donations in lieu of buying office Christmas gifts. Schutze and her team have also supported special patient activities at the hospital.

The patient stories she heard 16 years ago “touched me so much that I felt I needed to pay it forward,” Schutze says. Then the hospital saved the life of someone she loves.

That “someone” is Schutze’s nephew, Armand, who received treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia at St. Jude.

Vickie Schutze and her children

Vickie Schutze and her children (from left) Madison, Gavon Joe and Dalton.

A holiday tradition like no other

The St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign brings together celebrities, media, retail and corporate partners each holiday season to raise funds and awareness for St. Jude.

Marlo, Terre and Tony Thomas, the children of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas, created the campaign, which has raised more than $588 million in its 11-year history. The campaign has raised more than $100 million each of the last two years, thanks to the generous spirit of holiday shoppers, the efforts of individuals like Schutze, and the dedication of partners like Kmart.

“The St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign has become a shining example of the humanity and goodwill that exists throughout the holiday season,” Marlo Thomas says. “We are blessed to receive incredible love and support from our corporate partners, their employees and customers. The funds they raise help us stay true to my father’s promise that no family pays  St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food. That’s because we believe all a family should worry about is helping their child live.”

Last year Kmart raised more than $17.5 million through the campaign, bringing the company’s total contribution to more than $76.7 million.

“Kmart’s long history of success in supporting charitable causes is due to the generosity of our Shop Your Way members, customers and associates,” says Alasdair James, Kmart president and chief member officer. “We’re proud of the impact our results have made for the families of St. Jude and thankful to St. Jude for its tireless work to defeat cancer and other diseases in children. St. Jude made holiday shopping at Kmart more rewarding, and we’re excited to support an organization that clearly means so much to our members.”

Kmart’s fundraising for St. Jude is part of the company’s culture.

“It’s not a one-day or one-time push,” Schutze says. “It’s something that is always thought about and looked at here. As a company we take our partnership and our support of St. Jude very seriously.”

In addition to Kmart, more than 70 companies are partners in St. Jude Thanks and Giving, including Best Buy, Ann Taylor, Kay Jewelers, Domino’s, Williams-Sonoma, Inc., HomeGoods, Mazda, New York & Company, Brooks Brothers, GNC, Dollar General, Claire’s,Chili’s Grill & Bar, and many more.  

Marlo Thomas celebrates the St. Jude  Thanks and Giving season with (from left) Cooper Abbott, Gayatri Linga and Tamara Ford.

Marlo Thomas celebrates the St. Jude  Thanks and Giving season with (from left) Cooper Abbott, Gayatri Linga and Tamara Ford.

Raising awareness for St. Jude

Each year, the St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign brings the work of St. Jude to people across the country when Marlo Thomas and St. Jude patients appear on NBC’s TODAY show throughout Thanksgiving week.

In addition, special media spots featuring St. Jude celebrity friends and patients air on TV and in movie theaters nationwide, including Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Theatres, Cinemark and Carmike Cinemas. This year, Jimmy Kimmel joins a roster of celebrity supporters that includes Jennifer Aniston, Michael Strahan, Sofia Vergara and Latin GRAMMY winner Luis Fonsi.

Schutze does her part to share the St. Jude story. Each year, she gives gifts featuring the St. Jude logo to spread the word about the hospital’s mission.

In 2012, Armand celebrated the end of his treatment at a No Mo’ Chemo party. He is now pursuing a career in computer and networking repair. Since attending that party, Schutze has encouraged people to take the time to visit St. Jude, which she calls a magical place.

“It’s not just about sick kids there … they don’t treat them like kids with cancer,” Schutze said. “They treat them like kids.” 

From Promise, Autumn 2015

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