Memphis, Tennessee: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital changed the way the world treats its sickest children. But it began simply as one man’s promise to the patron saint of hopeless causes. A struggling young entertainer named Danny Thomas vowed to St. Jude Thaddeus, “Show me my way in life and someday I will build you a shrine.” Also Read - A New Cure For 'Bubble Boy' at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
The shrine became St. Jude, a hospital to treat all children, regardless of color or creed or a family’s economic situation. When the doors opened in 1962, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer, was 4 percent — a virtual death sentence. Now, at St. Jude, it’s 94 percent. Also Read - Smyrna's Blessings
If Thomas were alive today, he’d surely be awed by the advances in research and treatment at St. Jude, and at how his original single-building hospital has grown into a 66-acre campus with global impact, a facility that freely shares its research with the world. Also Read - 10-year-old cancer-survivor steals spotlight during Trump's annual address
He’d be heartened to see patients like Zahaan, who came to St. Jude from Singapore after surgery to remove a brain tumor. Zahaan received proton therapy and chemotherapy at St. Jude, but his parents seemed even more impressed by how everyone at St. Jude, from Dr. Amar Gajjar to the Child Life specialists who work to ease a patient’s anxiety, kept their son calm, relaxed — and even happy.
“He goes around saying, ‘I’m a St. Jude patient,’ ” Zahaan’s father, Murtuza, said during his son’s treatment. “He has one St. Jude T-shirt he wants to wear every day. The minute that it is washed, he wears it again.’”
To be a St. Jude patient today means the same things as it did in 1962. The research is groundbreaking, the treatment is lifesaving, and families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
And while there have been tremendous advances in science and survival odds over the decades, the need for support is greater than ever. It costs approximately $1 billion a year to operate St. Jude, and more than 75 percent of those funds come from public contributions, many of them small gifts from individuals.
The average individual donation? It’s $43.25.
That’s St. Jude — one man’s promise that’s drawn millions of followers from around the world, rallying around an undeniable cause: No child should die in the dawn of life.
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