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Hope for the Holidays

Help children like Owen by taking part in this year’s St. Jude Thanks and Giving.

By John Juettner; Photos by John Zacher

Marlo Thomas with St. Jude patients

Marlo Thomas celebrates St. Jude Thanks and Giving with patients (from left) Kenlie Jackson, Gunnar Charvat and Marley Harris.

Owen Church is an active fifth-grader who loves soccer, basketball and running. He runs 5k races and kids’ triathlons, enjoys animals and nature, and is constantly playing with his three siblings.

“He loves being outdoors,” says his mother, Kelly. “We have one-and-a-half acres of land, so he’s always exploring and playing with the other kids.”

Owen is also four years removed from treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. During his two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy, Owen did not slow down one bit. He stayed active with his siblings and even played soccer.

He and his family also took part in St. Jude Thanks and Giving® in 2010. This campaign was created by Marlo, Terre and Tony Thomas, the children of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas, and has raised more than $693 million since it began in 2004. From Thanksgiving through December, the campaign unites celebrities, media, retail and corporate partners, encouraging consumers to donate to support St. Jude while they shop.

Giving back

While still receiving treatment, Owen joined Marlo Thomas in a video for St. Jude Thanks and Giving. He traveled with his family to New York to appear with her on NBC’s TODAY show, which features St. Jude stories daily during Thanksgiving week.

In 2015, Owen and his family shared their story with one of the campaign’s original corporate partners, Kay® Jewelers, part of the world’s largest diamond jewelry retailer. They met with company employees during a St. Jude visit, and attended its annual leadership conference in Florida. Owen again visited the TODAY show, this time to help Kay Jewelers donate plush toys to the TODAY show’s Holiday Toy Drive. These toys are sold annually in stores in support of the St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign.

Kay Jewelers has been a partner in the lifesaving mission of St. Jude for the past 18 years. Through the dedication of team members at its stores and the tremendous generosity of its guests, Kay has raised nearly $53 million to support St. Jude since the partnership’s launch.

Along with Kay Jewelers, more than 70 major brands are part of St. Jude Thanks and Giving, such as Kmart, Best Buy, Ann Taylor, HomeGoods, Domino’s, Williams-Sonoma Inc., New York & Company, AutoZone, Dollar General, Brooks Brothers, Christopher & Banks, GNC, Claire’s and many more. These companies help raise funds and awareness. They do this through social media, in-store and e-commerce programs, and sales of specialty items.

“We are truly grateful for the care and compassion our corporate partners, like Kay Jewelers, generous donors and celebrity friends have for the children of St. Jude,” said Marlo Thomas, national outreach director for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “The amazing support we receive enables our doctors and scientists to continue to pursue lifesaving research and treatments while allowing us to keep my father’s founding promise that no family ever pays St. Jude for anything — not for treatment, travel, housing or food.”

St. Jude patient Owen Church

Owen Church in 2010

Giving thanks

In addition to generous corporate partners, St. Jude Thanks and Giving features celebrity supporters who donate their time to support St. Jude. This year, Jennifer Aniston, Sofia Vergara, Michael Strahan, Jimmy Kimmel, Luis Fonsi and Marlo Thomas will appear alongside St. Jude patients in the ads. A movie trailer featuring these stars will also appear on theater screens nationwide at Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Theatres, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas, Marcus Theatres and many more.

“Through the many years of helping raise awareness and funds, our team members continue to let us know that  St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the No. 1 company program about which they feel the most pride,” said Tryna Kochanek, executive vice president of North America Stores for Signet Jewelers, the parent company of Kay Jewelers.

Owen’s parents are grateful to St. Jude for helping to save their son’s life.

“Owen has a good long-term prognosis,” Kelly says. “Everything positive in Owen’s life is because of the ground-breaking research done by St. Jude.”

To help St. Jude create even more inspiring stories like Owen’s, visit St. Jude Thanks and Giving partners, like Kay Jewelers, during November and December.

Editor's note: Kenlie Jackson lost her battle with cancer in July of 2017.

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