On a crisp, autumn day in October 1957, a hundred determined people gathered at the Morrison Hotel in Chicago.
They were there from all around the country — advocates, stakeholders, businessmen, doctors. Believers all.
Dr. Lemuel Diggs from Memphis outlined a proposal for what would become a specialty research and treatment center, the first of its kind with a national scope for treating the sickest children.
Officers were elected. Articles of incorporation were drawn up.
And Danny Thomas, well, he did what he always did best — he spoke of his dreams and hopes and plans. He inspired.
But he didn’t just speak of his vision, he wrote it all down and signed his name to it on that day in Chicago in 1957.
The Preamble to the Constitution of American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities is a document we hold sacred to this day. In it, Danny paid tribute to his Lebanese ancestors who “began a migration to the blessed shores of these United States of America, seeking the freedoms and opportunities won for us by our founding fathers.”
As a way to give thanks for all those women and men — his family — were afforded in this new land, he founded ALSAC, “a non-profit, non-sectarian, charitable corporation” with the sole purpose of supporting the needs of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
He dedicated his new idea to the parable of the Good Samaritan, “to love and care for our neighbor, regardless of color or creed.”
Sixty-three years and still, we are all — fundraisers, doctors, scientists, nurses, donors, volunteers — loving and caring for our neighbors.
Regardless of color or creed.
Regardless of economic conditions, politics or pandemics.
This love and care was evident just last month as we kicked off the St. Jude Walk/Run, a staple of our fundraising and awareness fitness events, in a very different manner. It was virtual and, while we at ALSAC have necessarily adapted and innovated over the past half-year, we still didn’t know what a virtual Walk/Run might look like.
But we needn’t have worried. Not when the mission of St. Jude, in all its purposeful and unifying ways, was at the forefront.
The result was a fundraising event far and away better than what we’d hoped. And it wasn’t just the money raised, but the awareness as participants engaged through digital platforms.
We reached more communities than our in-person events, engaging 49 states, Puerto Rico and seven countries: Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
Thanks to you, our supporters — in the spirit of those 100 people gathered in Chicago’s Morrison Hotel all those years ago — we are staying on course and helping more kids around the world in need, regardless of the challenges.
Because of all you do, we’re touching communities throughout the world, centered upon an idea as essential and relevant today as it was in 1957: “to love and care for our neighbor, regardless of color or creed,” or economic circumstances.
Richard C. Shadyac Jr. is President and CEO of American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.