When Danny Thomas opened St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in 1962, his vision resonated with Judi Didcoct.
“Cancer has had a strong presence in my life,” Judi said. “In high school, I lost a childhood friend to leukemia, and the next year my father also died from leukemia.” Later, she lost her mother to breast cancer and her husband to T-cell lymphoma.
The retired school teacher loves children, though she doesn't have any of her own. “When I heard what Danny was trying to do for kids with cancer, it hit a nerve, and I thought, ‘This is something I want to be part of,’” she says.
Q: What have you been doing since your retirement?
A: One thing I have been doing since 1997 is volunteering in developing countries with the St. Paul volunteer organization. I went to Indonesia, one of the poorest places I’ve ever seen, to teach English at a small Catholic school. That trip really touched my heart, and so I’ve continued to help. I’ve volunteered in many places like Vietnam and Brazil, and I just returned from a session in Mexico. It also helped me realize that I wanted to do something for the kids at home, which cemented the idea of St. Jude being one of the central beneficiaries of my estate.
Q: How did you get involved with St. Jude?
A: I met my St. Jude representative, Jen, at a luncheon for St. Jude donors in my retirement community. They had a very good program explaining all the wonderful things the hospital does, and I told Jen about my estate gift. Talking to her really helped me feel certain that I made the right decision, and she has been able to provide me with a lot more information to show me how my gift will really make a difference.
Q: Have you visited the hospital, and was there anything about your visit that surprised you?
A: I visited with my niece, and it was wonderful to see everything firsthand. I was particularly impressed with the kids and the fact that they didn’t look down and out. I was also really interested in the St. Jude School program and to learn how the children are able to continue their education while they are in treatment.
Q: What would you say to others who may be considering a gift to St. Jude in their will?
A: I would encourage anyone to visit St. Jude, and they will realize why it’s so important. St. Jude’s work is all-encompassing in researching and treating childhood cancer, and I want to ensure that continues long into the future. My gift is an investment in the mission, and it means that these children will have a chance to live a normal life. That is the most important thing.