In my role as president and CEO of ALSAC, I am privileged to travel the country and meet many amazing people who love and support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
I am humbled by how many of our donors and volunteers freely give of their time, talents and hard-earned dollars to support the lifesaving work done at St. Jude. And, more often than I can count, these caring individuals tell me they are grateful to be given the opportunity to help our patients and families in need. What an inspiring perspective.
This summer, we hosted some of our volunteers during special awards ceremonies in Memphis. It was powerful to see and hear the commitment and dedication of these St. Jude champions.
There was Lisa Ballard, a St. Jude Math-A-Thon coordinator and a school teacher who travels to St. Jude every summer to create craft activities for patient families. Sue Henderson, a St. Jude Hero who began raising funds for St. Jude while running half marathons in 2011, tearfully pledged to help as long as she could. And Jeff Newton, builder of our Charlotte, North Carolina, St. Jude Dream Home, recalled his own daughter’s medical issues and his personal resolve to support St. Jude.
Just two weeks after that ceremony, a caravan of volunteers and supporters descended on the hospital’s campus for the annual Memphis to Peoria Run. For 36 years, these staunch supporters—many of whom use their vacation time to help with this event—run the 465 miles day and night from Memphis to Peoria, Illinois, to raise funds and awareness for St. Jude.
It’s a bonding experience unlike any other, struggling to sleep in cramped RV quarters and pushing through aching muscles to complete the miles. Yet, no one complains. Instead, they draw upon the inspiration of the researchers tirelessly seeking cures; the doctors, nurses and staff who do whatever it takes to help a child heal; and the stories of the patients and families who bravely battle cancer with strength and hope.
It is because of volunteers like these, and generous donors from all walks of life, that St. Jude can continue breaking new ground in the research and treatment of childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. And that we can keep the promise of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas that no family will ever receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food—because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
Our supporters and volunteers are the lifeblood of St. Jude, and we cannot thank them enough for all they do for the children of St. Jude.
Richard C. Shadyac is president and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude.
From Promise, Autumn 2017