Throughout the years I’ve always been moved by the sweet and moving stories in the commercials that feature celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Michael Strahan and Sofia Vergara alongside the young St. Jude patients who are battling childhood cancers and other deadly diseases. Earlier this month I jumped at the chance to attend a celebratory Thanks and Giving luncheon at Trattoria Dell’ Arte in midtown which was being hosted by actress, producer and social activist Marlo Thomas & St Jude.
The Thanks and Giving campaign was created in 2004 by Marlo Thomas and her brother Tony and sister Terre to encourage holiday shoppers to “Give thanks for the healthy kids in their lives and to give to those who are not” by helping to raise funds by purchasing specialty items or adding a donation at checkout of participating retailers to benefit St. Jude. The Thomas family created the program around the holidays and teamed up with over 60 retailers with a goal in mind to raise money and raise awareness.
Although I was familiar of the work that St. Jude did, I wasn’t unaware of the full extent and was completely amazed at their accomplishments through dedication, research and treatment that has allowed them to handle on average 67,000 patient visits annually and through treatments created at St. Jude, pushed the 20% childhood cancer survival rate to more than 80% since opening it’s doors. What sets St. Jude apart from other hospitals is that they are capable of doing the scientific research and providing treatments all under the same roof, which allows for their clinical research to get tested quickly.
St. Jude makes two promises:
1. Families don’t have to pay for anything: food, treatment, housing, travel expenses are all taken care of, so that all they have to worry about is their child.
2. All research discovered at St. Jude would be shared with the medical community world wide.
St. Jude is referred to as America’s hospital funded by America: what’s so impressive is that 78% of the money used to keep things running come from the public and 22% received are from corporate funding and grants.
Also in attendance at the luncheon was 11 year old Mary Browder, and her mother Renee (pictured above) who were such inspirations to meet. Last winter Mary Browder suddenly was losing weight, became very fatigued and was frequently running low grade fevers. To the surprise of her parents, their very active daughter who enjoyed horse back riding was diagnosed with an advanced case of Hodgkin Lymphoma and was referred to St. Jude by her pediatrician.
Marlo described the mother and daughter as symbols of St. Jude, parents who were terrified for their young child After entering At. Jude in January, after treatments Mary Browder was in remission by May and while in our presence jokingly told us about she and her dad joked about loosing here hair and gaining it back “my hair went from smooth to scruffy to fluffy” and how she was too busy for cancer and thankful that her doctors worked around their crazy schedule to ensure she never missed ballet practice.
There are just so many amazing stories like Mary Browder’s (read her full story here) and ways to donate to help kids and families like hers. Stay up to date on all the wonderful happenings with St. Jude on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.