The photos Carnival Cruise director Mike Pack shares on social media are a thrilling spread. His work has taken him to key landmarks and experiences in more than 40 countries around the world: the Eiffel Tower and Louvre museum in France, the whitewashed shorelines of Greece, a safari in South Africa.
Dazzlingly unique experiences to be sure, but look closely and you’ll find a simple detail in common: a T-shirt with the words "Groove for St. Jude."
Mike wears the shirt whenever he visits a special location and posts a photo of himself there, using the #groovetheworld to call attention to the lifesaving work at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
As a cruise director for Carnival Cruise Line, Mike encourages guests to buy the shirts, too, with proceeds of the sales going to St. Jude. He leads them in energetic dance parties on the ship deck, coaxing them to shed their self-consciousness as they boogie to support the groundbreaking research and treatment unfolding on the Memphis campus and in affiliated locations.
This will be Mike’s seventh year as a cruise director for Carnival. In that time, he’s met tens of thousands of people, but rarely a week goes by without someone approaching him about the impact St. Jude has had in their life.
He knows the impression the research hospital makes first hand. On his first visit to St. Jude in 2016, he recalls being moved by what he saw and heard: pioneering pediatric cancer research and treatment and children beating life-threatening diseases. Of all the places he toured, he found the Kay Café particularly special. There, he saw doctors and researchers milling in the same space as patients and their families. He saw purpose mingling with cause.
"Carnival is all about fun and family, and I saw that same thing happening in St. Jude," said Mike, who is animated and speaks with his hands and eyes when he talks about his first visit. With a British accent that conveys fun and warmth all at once, he added, "Those families are going through a really difficult time, but you still see happiness and love and that really makes St. Jude very special."
And he met patients and families, too. One mother told him, “My child has cancer, but cancer doesn’t have him.”
“That really stuck with me,” Mike said. “Parents wanted to tell everyone how strongly they felt about St. Jude and that all they had to worry about was looking after their child.”
Words like that are what ring in his ears when he wears the Groove for St. Jude shirt at the most renowned locations in the world. Mike wants to draw as much attention as he can to the work at St. Jude so that families don't ever have to worry about affording medical care. He has become a popular face for the company-wide effort by Carnival that has already raised $22 million since the Miami-based company began its partnership with St. Jude in 2010.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic led to an industry-wide shut down in cruises, Carnival picked up its robust fundraising for St. Jude as soon as it resumed sailing in July 2021. Since then, Groove for St. Jude events on Carnival ships have raised more than $295,000 for the research hospital.
The company’s commitment to St. Jude is also evident on its newest ship, the Mardi Gras, which started sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida, on July 30 and features the first roller coaster at sea. Mike is cruise director of the vessel, which accommodates 5,300 guests and showcases sculptures and art inspired by St. Jude patients’ drawings.
For Mike, the art will serve as a reminder of Carnival's support for St. Jude, and help him share his groove-worthy purpose with even more guests every year.