Thirty-four years ago, Diane Lavallee was on bed rest during her second pregnancy when she saw an infomercial about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She immediately joined the monthly giving program and has been a loyal supporter ever since.
“Seeing all those faces of innocent children and what was happening to them made me cry. I started thinking about the baby I was carrying and what I would do if that were me,” says Lavallee, a Massachusetts resident. “I felt that I needed to help in some little way—that God had blessed me with one healthy child and another on the way.”
When Lavallee joined the program, the monthly donation request was just $7. Today, the average St. Jude Partner In Hope donation is about $24 a month. The St. Jude Partners In Hope program includes 750,000 people who donated more than $134 million in the last fiscal year—an amount that could cover the operating cost of St. Jude for 67 days.
St. Jude Partners In Hope like Lavallee are vital to the hospital’s mission, says ALSAC President and CEO Richard Shadyac Jr.
“Every day, families come to the hospital desperate for lifesaving care because they’ve been told that St. Jude provides their best hope for survival,” he says. “Supporters in the monthly giving program ensure that we have the steady flow of funds needed to help our doctors and scientists treat critically ill children in need of cures.”
Lavallee’s connection to the St. Jude mission is rooted in her deep love for children. Once a stay-at-home mom who ran an in-home daycare, she is now office manager of a local furniture store, where she keeps a St. Jude “cuss cup.”
“During the holidays, anybody who swears at work has to pay the cuss cup,” Lavallee says of the good-natured collection she started 10 years ago. Contributions have allowed her to send an additional $75 to $175 to St. Jude annually.
Lavallee and her husband, Victor, have visited the hospital twice—once 10 years ago, and again this past summer.
After the first visit, Lavallee upped her monthly contribution.
“It was a very moving and humbling experience. We didn’t see any sadness. All the children seemed to be happy,” she says.
When they returned this year, the couple found the brick they had purchased on the Pathway of Hope, another way of supporting the hospital.
Lavallee keeps St. Jude in mind when good fortune comes her way, giving 10 percent of any pay raise or tax refund to St. Jude. Victor supports her commitment to the hospital, as well.
“He says there is nothing we can’t do for kids,” she says. “Not just for our kids, but for any kids.”
Abridged from Promise, Winter 2015