Lorenzo Sandlin arrived at O’Neal Elementary School in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, more than three decades ago with a passion for education and a love of “trying to help children better themselves.”
He was also a bereaved parent of a patient treated at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. His son, Matthew, died at age 5 of Wilms tumor, a type of kidney cancer.
Grateful for the treatment his son received, Lorenzo felt called to the cause. “When I saw that care, that love, I wanted to be part of it,” he said. So that first year at O’Neal Elementary, Lorenzo launched a St. Jude Math-A-Thon, a fundraising initiative designed to improve students’ math skills while also teaching them the importance of helping others.
At Lorenzo’s urging, the program grew to a district-wide effort. Businesses and other sectors of the community also joined in to help. And by 2018, a few years after Lorenzo had retired, the Poplar Bluff Math-A-Thon he started had raised more than $1 million for St. Jude.
“I just wish the hospital down there the utmost in success,” said Lorenzo, still grateful, all these years later. “I would love to see them put themselves out of business.”