Mom’s donation to St. Jude, decades ago, still impacts the mission

$25 donation honoring a child stricken by cancer turned out to be so much more valuable and enduring

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I want to tell you about a very special letter. A letter that touched my heart. One that has inspired me and so many others and demonstrates vividly the power of acts of kindness and generosity.

It’s not a new letter. It was written long before I became CEO, but hearing about it recently reminded me just how selfless people can be — how much good they do without boasting or expecting any great reward in return. And how much all of that is really about love.

Back in 1997, Judy Cline asked her daughter to drop off the letter at a St. Jude radiothon in Rockford, Illinois. She was grieving the loss of her 17-year-old son Matt to cancer. Some months after he died, Judy found his wallet, containing $25. She kept it, knowing she’d find something meaningful to do with it. Someday. When the time was right.

Matt Cline

Judy Cline's son, Matt

Matt wasn’t treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, but when she heard the Q98.5 radiothon coming through her car speakers that day, she knew right then what she’d do with the money. She’d donate it to St. Jude to help cure illnesses like her son Matt’s.

Judy was too grief stricken to tell her story on the air that day — how her son endured two and a half years of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant before he died. But it made its way to one of our employees who was moved to tears and asked the DJs to read it on air.

So many people were similarly, understandably moved and gave in honor of Judy and Matt. It’s a simple, selfless gesture that has rippled so far and for so long.

That story got me thinking about other letters we’ve received over the years and how filled with love and hope they were, even in terribly difficult circumstances. Like the one from Ira Jackson. He called it the most difficult letter he’d ever written. Ira was 69 years old and suffering from multiple myeloma and systemic mastocytosis. He had been sending a portion of his social security check — his only source of income — to St. Jude. But he was letting us know he could no longer afford to make that contribution because of the cost of the medicine he used for pain management.

“I am an old man now, I am 69 and have had a good life. … So the gist of this letter is to ask just one person to take my place and continue to contribute to St. Jude.”

Can you imagine the selflessness of our friend Ira, in terrible pain but not thinking of himself but the children of St. Jude? That’s certainly a love that believes all things and hopes all things.

And then there’s the handwritten note from Caroline, who was 8 years old when she wrote us. She said she was donating $1.40 because miracles come from the heart. She said it might not seem like a lot, but she reminded us that little things can go a long way.

She’s right, of course. As our founder, Danny Thomas, said decades ago, a little from a lot of people can go a long way to cure childhood cancer.

I encourage you to write to us to share your own St. Jude moments of inspiration. Whether they’re small gestures like Caroline’s or letters like Judy’s that inspire across decades, they all matter to us and make a difference even in the most difficult circumstances. They’re all bearing with one another — with all of us — in love.

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