The Memphis Zoo is a favorite destination for patients of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® and their families. At the zoo, families get outside, relax, see some of their favorite animals and connect with a sense of normalcy during a difficult time.
Now, the Memphis Zoo is highlighting the stories of St. Jude families by pairing lively patient and sibling artworks featuring some of the animals found in the zoo.
Animal: Polar bears
Location: Northwest Passage
In 2018, after a family bike ride, Calvin’s mom noticed he had a bump on his back, and his right leg was swollen. It was discovered that Calvin had rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the soft tissue, and it had spread. There was tumor growth in five places.
A referral to St. Jude was recommended by his doctor. “We had no idea what we were up against,” said Calvin's mom. “We just knew that St. Jude was the best place. We didn’t hesitate to come.”
Calvin’s treatment included chemotherapy and two kinds of radiation therapy. Through it all, Calvin kept his mom and his care team laughing. His mom says he’s “quick-witted, happy-go-lucky and strong-willed.” He loves sports, swimming and art.
When Maelin’s parents brought her home from China in 2017, they knew she had medical needs. She was scheduled for orthopedic surgery within weeks of her adoption. However, the bloodwork to prepare for that surgery revealed she had Fanconi anemia.
Fanconi anemia is a rare and serious inherited blood disorder that leads to bone marrow failure – causing an inability to produce healthy blood. Untreated, this genetic disease can cause leukemia. Fortunately for Maelin, her's was caught early.
At St. Jude, Maelin received chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Today, she is a healthy, happy girly-girl with “glitter in her veins,” according to her mom. “She's just super joyful. Every day, she finds a reason why it's the best day ever.”
Location: China paddock
Location: Northwest Passage
“It wasn't that I was feeling bad. It was that I was weak,” remembered Kenzie. No one expected anything serious, but when she was 13 years old, Kenzie was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of blood cancer.
Kenzie was referred to St. Jude, where she received more than two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy.
In 2020, Kenzie finished treatment. She is now a college student with hopes to one day be a nurse at St. Jude and give kids the same support she received. "St. Jude is my second family," she said. "We have created a bond with so many people there that cannot be broken. It 100% means the world to me because they saved my life."
When Ty was two years old, his family noticed a white spot in the center of his right eye in certain lighting.
Tests showed Ty had a type of eye cancer known as retinoblastoma. After a referral to St. Jude, his family learned the tumor had filled his eye socket and had spread to the surrounding tissues.
The best outcome required the removal of Ty’s right eye, followed by chemotherapy. Even at such a young age, Ty had a special interest that helped take his mind off treatment: art. The St. Jude staff always had art supplies waiting for him after procedures.
Cancer has been in Ty’s past for more than a decade now. But art is still a part of his life – and so is St. Jude.
Gabby - sibling of St. Jude patient Dylan
St. Jude siblings, Gabby (left) and Dylan (right)
Location: African Veldt
Gabby is a counselor at a summer camp for kids who have had cancer and their siblings, and she can relate. Gabby’s little brother, Dylan, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when he was only about a year old.
After a referral to St. Jude, Dylan started a treatment plan which included receiving his father’s natural killer (NK) cells to help attack his cancer. He finished treatment in 2009 and has remained in remission.
Dylan is now a teenager who raises money for St. Jude. Gabby, who drew this giraffe when she was 7 years old, enjoys arts and crafts, especially sewing and making jewelry.
Javier - sibling of St. Jude patient Juan
From the age of four, Javier spent a lot of time at St. Jude while his big brother, Juan, was in treatment for a rare cancerous brain tumor. Despite his treatments, and just after Javier turned 10, Juan passed away.
“We loved each other. We had a bond,” said Javier. “I’ll never forget him because he was an important person in my life.”
Javier is now a teenager and a talented artist who finds art – not only fun but therapeutic. He says being with his brother through cancer treatment taught him about staying positive and having gratitude for family.
St. Jude siblings, Javier (left) and Juan (right)
St. Jude art is found at different locations throughout the Memphis Zoo. Each placard highlights a patient and a piece of art created by that patient or their sibling and features an animal in that exhibit.
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The Memphis Zoo
The Memphis Zoo is a favorite destination for St. Jude patients and their families. At the zoo, families get outside, relax and connect with a sense of normalcy during a difficult time.
The Memphis Zoo is the single most visited attraction in Memphis. Over 100 years old, the zoo is home to more than 4,500 animals and was named one of the top zoos in the country. The animal residents inhabit one-of-a-kind exhibits such as Teton Trek, Zambezi River Hippo Camp, Northwest Passage and Cat Country.
Learn more about the Memphis Zoo and plan a trip today!