Chip and Joanna Gaines, the home improvement duo behind the Magnolia Network, visited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital the first time in 2017 to deliver a gift.
They left with something more. “It changed us forever,” Chip said.
The Gaineses were at St. Jude to unveil their renovation of the dining room at Target House, a long-term housing facility where patients receiving treatment and their families stay for free. They also brought a check made out to St. Jude for $230,000 raised via their fans as part of Chip’s ‘Operation Haircut’, in which he shaved his head to benefit St. Jude kids.
At the event to show off the make-over featuring wooden tables, white subway tile backsplashes, and patient artwork framed on the walls, Chip and Joanna met young patients and their families and heard their stories, many told in tears and punctuated with hugs. They will never forget it.
It was one of those moments that happen in life that instantly changes our perspective. It can happen anytime, while out for a walk, or in the midst of a conversation, or while visiting St. Jude for the first time. From that moment on, we’re changed.
“Jo and I are kind of all-inners,” Chip said. “When we went to St. Jude in Memphis, Tennessee, we came back, and we were like, ‘For the rest of our lives, we’re going to do whatever we can to support that beautiful organization.’”
‘We’re with you’
Since then, the Gaineses have been steadfast supporters of St. Jude, most recently becoming official St. Jude ambassadors, expanding their support by participating in campaigns including — for the first time — the annual St. Jude Thanks and Giving®.
Two years after that first visit to St. Jude, in 2019, their “Chip-in Challenge” on social media raised another $998,000 with the help of their fans and celebrities including Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Lopez and Florida Georgia Line. The Gaineses donated $547,000 for a total $1.5 million for St. Jude.
Chip and Joanna visited St. Jude again that year to bring another over-sized check and host a garden party to unveil a garden-themed playhouse they designed for Target House.
Joanna read to the kids from her book, “We are the Gardeners.” A year later, when her next book, “The World Needs Who You Were Made to Be,” was published, she donated a portion of proceeds to St. Jude.
Because it is the stories of the patients and their families that stay on her mind — and in her heart. Moments of heartbreak. Moments of resiliency. Moments of joy.
“There is something about hearing the stories of these children and their families, seeing the hope in their eyes,” Joanna said. “I truly believe that St. Jude does that for these families. They give them hope. They give them strength.”
As parents of five children, the Gaineses know how important it is that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
“When you watch your child sick, even if it’s just a skinned knee, as a parent your heart goes out,” Joanna said. “So, I can only imagine — really, I can’t imagine — what these parents are going through.”
She is grateful for the opportunity to hug those parents and tell them, “We’re with you.”
After each visit to St. Jude, Chip and Joanna show their kids pictures and tell them about the patients. Their daughter Ella, who’s 16, and her mom designed a T-shirt for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September to benefit St. Jude.
“It’s important that as a family, we support other families who are going through this,” Joanna said. “If we can help make a difference in those families’ lives by supporting St. Jude, it’s an honor for us.”
Each moment a reminder
Through their ongoing support of St. Jude over the years, the Gaines have gotten to know patients and their families.
Bailey, who was 11 when he was diagnosed with bone cancer and treated at St. Jude for nearly a year, met the Gaineses during that first visit in 2017. He stayed in touch with Chip and Joanna, meeting their kids and going fishing with Chip.
At 16, Bailey is healthy and sports a full head of thick, wavy hair and recently visited the Gaineses in Texas, where the Gaineses live.
It was another moment for the Gaineses. A reminder of what is possible.
Five years after their first visit to St. Jude, after that first transformative moment and the many more that followed over the years, Chip and Joanna still have pictures from that time, of the kids who captured their hearts, in their office.
Chip and Joanna hope their fans will become fans of St. Jude and donate.
“It’s a worthy cause for all of us to collectively band together and try to stamp out childhood cancer,” Chip said.
It takes just a moment.