The crew of Inspiration4 visited St. Jude to find a galaxy of gratitude

A heroes welcome greeted Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Dr. Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski when the new Inspiration4 Advanced Research Center was named for their mission.

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young cancer patient Luxe gives a toothy grin to the camera

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Last week I had the opportunity to ask the crew of Inspiration4 what advice they could share based on their experiences in training and as the first all-civilian mission to orbit Earth.

Jared Isaacman, mission commander and founder of Shift4Payments, said, “Aim very high.”

Hayley Arceneaux, medical officer for the mission and a St. Jude cancer survivor herself, said, “Live a life of gratitude.”

Had it been 60 years earlier, it might have been Danny Thomas giving this same advice. As a struggling entertainer, he made a promise to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, that if he were to find success, he would build a shrine in gratitude.

Danny, of course, became hugely successful. He aimed high and worked hard. As a result, he lived a life of gratitude through the founding of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

We celebrated the Inspiration4 crew’s visit with a heroes’ parade through the St. Jude campus. For Jared, mission pilot Dr. Sian Proctor and payload specialist Chris Sembroski, it was their first visit to St. Jude.

It was a day of gratitude.

Over and over again, these brave and generous women and men expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to support St. Jude by raising awareness around the world and helping raise more than $240 million.

That’s right, they thanked us — my colleagues at ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude, and the employees of St. Jude — for the opportunity to help.

I am so grateful for the generosity of this crew and our 11 million donors. It’s because of all of you St. Jude is able to aim so high with a six-year, $11.5 billion strategic plan that will accelerate care and cures for kids with cancer around the globe.

Much of that necessary research will happen in a new facility, built as part of a $1 billion capital expansion of our campus. We had the opportunity to celebrate the crew and show our gratitude for their historic mission by unveiling the name of the new research hub: the Inspiration4 Advanced Research Center.

The 625,000-square-foot center is designed for collaboration across many scientific fields. Collaboration and teamwork are the very heart of what St. Jude, ALSAC and all of you, our supporters, are working toward.

The goals of the new strategic plan, like the idea of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital itself six decades ago, are audacious and bold. Raise the overall survival rates for six of the most common types of childhood cancer from less than 20 percent worldwide to 60 percent by 2030. Find cures for the most difficult to treat childhood cancers. Reduce toxicity of cancer treatments we do have so kids don’t just live, but thrive.

We only get there by aiming high.

When asked why he chose to undertake his adventure to space, Jared inspired us once again: “It’s in human nature to want to go and cross the oceans and climb the mountains and satisfy our curiosity and maybe look for the answers that we’ve been looking for since the dawn of humankind.”

I can’t thank Jared, Hayley, Sian and Chris enough for taking St. Jude along for the ride. And I have so much gratitude for our 11 million donors. It will take all of us to continue this journey of crossing oceans and climbing mountains started by Danny Thomas 60 years ago. But if we keep reaching for the stars, together, we’ll see the day no child dies in the dawn of life.

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