For more than 40 years, ESA has put heart into the St. Jude mission.
The service organization Epsilon Sigma Alpha (ESA) is part of the extended family of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. ESA has been part of the St. Jude story since 1972, when the organization adopted the hospital as its international service project.
St. Jude founder Danny Thomas visited the 1970 national ESA convention, where he was made an honorary member. For the rest of his life, he attended nearly every national ESA convention to thank the members for their work.
“We were there at the beginning of Danny’s dream,” says B.J. Clark, executive director of ESA. “It always was sort of a personal relationship with Danny and with the people at ALSAC [the hospital’s fundraising organization].”
Making that personal connection is at the heart of ESA, which now has more than 10,000 members worldwide. “What makes us different from other service groups is that we have always done all of our projects with the power of friendship,” Clark says.
Tom Desmond, a regional director for ALSAC, says ESA members are involved in countless St. Jude events, and members have frequently traveled more than 100 miles to help with fundraisers. “What sets ESA members apart is their thorough understanding of the mission and their dedication to St. Jude,” he says. “I know that whenever we have a challenge in getting volunteers for an event, we have ESA members we can call on who are willing to travel and help.”
Service, work and fun
Former St. Jude patient Lindsey Tercilla discovered the power of ESA as a member of the collegiate chapter at the University of Florida-Gainesville, where she serves as the chapter’s philanthropy chair.
“ESA is possibly the best thing that has happened to me in my collegiate career,” says the pre-law student. “It’s a lot of service work, and it’s hard work, but it is also a lot of fun.”
At age 2, Tercilla was referred to St. Jude for treatment of a tumor called lymphangioma. Surgeons removed the growth, along with part of her small intestine. Thankfully, the tumor was benign, and no further treatment was required. But the experience made a lasting impression on her family.
Joining ESA and being part of the group’s February “ESA ♥ St. Jude” campaign, she says, “has been an incredible opportunity to pay it forward.”
ESA’s dedication to St. Jude is matched only by its impact. “ESA is proud of our 40-year commitment and even more proud of the more than $165 million that we have raised for St. Jude,” says Suzy Winters, ESA International Council president. “We are committed to St. Jude not only because of our history, but because of what the future can hold. We are optimistic that St. Jude is going to find cures, and we want to be around when that happens.”
Abridged from Promise, Spring 2013