My Visit to St. Jude: Do you know about all of the wonderful things they do?
A Note from Executive Director Tracy Weiner
I’m sure by now you know that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is one of the largest charity partners of the Marcum Foundation. I was fortunate enough to spend two days at the St. Jude campus in Memphis, Tennessee, to attend the 2022 St. Jude Partner Summit. I had the honor of meeting the dedicated staff, scientists, researchers and doctors who are providing life-changing treatment for children and their families.
I shared this amazing experience with many other charitable organizations from around the U.S. – FedEx, Goya, Best Buy (just to name a few). I also had the pleasure of meeting many incredible people who are doing work similarly to the Marcum Foundation – all for the love of children and for the love of St. Jude’s mission to find cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment.
At the opening dinner, Rick Shadyac, President and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude, spoke to us about all the new and exciting things the hospital is doing. He spoke a lot about the spirit of collaboration: collaboration between clinical care and research; collaboration between the hospital and its donors; collaboration to find a cure; and looking toward the future, collaboration with other countries and the advances they are making through the St. Jude Global Outreach Program.
In partnership with the World Health Organization and other global partners, the Global Outreach Program will begin a collaboration that focuses exclusively on improving cancer survival rates for children around the world. It is developing a network of interactive programs and institutions to inform a global alliance that will improve access to care, enhance the quality of care that children receive, and provide better options for cures. It is a dramatic step forward in ensuring that children everywhere have the possibility of a cure for cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
At the dinner, we also had the opportunity to meet two war survivors who recently arrived from Ukraine, bringing eight children to St. Jude for treatment. It was inspiring to see, as they got a standing ovation! Then, we heard from a former patient, an aspiring professional soccer player and current employee of St. Jude, Craig Johnson. His story was incredible and his attitude and determination were even more impressive. Not even cancer could slow him down in pursuing his goals on or off the field, thanks to the life-saving mission of St. Jude.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is staying true to the words of Hospital Founder Danny Thomas who said, “No child should die in the dawn of life”.
On day two we all boarded buses and headed to the hospital for a tour.
Please walk along with me through this tour because every moment was so enlightening, inspiring and insightful. I hope by the end of this, you feel what I felt when I left Memphis.
As we made our way to the hospital I had so many mixed feelings. I thought it was going to be sad and depressing. It turns out it was the total opposite! It was invigorating and uplifting. And it is because of us – you and me, the work we do fundraising, donating, volunteering, and being part of the team — that this is all possible.
My group and I were greeted by our tour guide, Amy Stack, a St. Jude employee for 18 years. Her excitement and enthusiasm while educating us about the hospital made us feel as if it were her first tour, rather than her 100th! She stopped to tell us every detail and memory that have inspired her throughout her years at the hospital.
The first stop on the tour was a visit to the new state-of-the-art research lab called the Inspiration Advanced 4 Research Center. A 625,000 square ft. research facility that was named in honor of Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian space mission to orbit Earth led by Jared Isaacman, CEO of Shift4 Payments. The new research center supports an overall $11.5 billion goal for St. Jude’s six-year strategic expansion plan.
At the Dyer lab we met with scientists who showed us the research they are doing with cells in cancerous tumors and genes. Although it was very interesting to hear about their advancements, most of what they are doing went way over my head!!
We walked by the buildings where patients and families live during their stay at the hospital. There are several short-term and long-term housing options. We visited Target House (yes, supported by Target!) where patients who are having treatment for more than 90 days live. Target House gives families some feeling of normalcy, while away from their homes. There is nothing they have to worry about except focusing on their child.
We also got to see construction happening on a new six-story housing facility for St. Jude patients and their families, Domino’s Village, sponsored by Domino’s. This building will offer 140 units for both short-term and long-term stays, as well as an underground parking garage, an outside courtyard and play area, and a pedestrian bridge. The facility is scheduled to open in spring 2023. Last year, Domino’s committed to raise $100 million in 10 years for St. Jude.
Then, we all got to take a picture in front of the St. Jude statue!
Our next stop was a visit to the pavilion – it felt like walking into a church. Right away you look up at an enormous skylight, which sits in the center of a beautiful dome ceiling with star-like shapes glittering around you. At your feet, terrazzo flooring with a radiating geometric pattern that lines the entry. You instantly feel the love that inspired this incredible shrine. The building contains memorabilia from the life of late entertainer and founder of St. Jude, Danny Thomas. In the pavilion you can walk around visiting different areas to learn about the history surrounding the founding of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the institution’s accomplishments in the fight against catastrophic childhood diseases.
Along the way we enjoyed seeing the other buildings that provide basic services for every area of a child’s development. We learned that St. Jude doesn’t let a child miss out on anything! Patients are given all the tools to navigate through treatment. For younger patients, the hospital models these experiences by practicing through play – using dolls, cards, movies, books, etc. to explain and help kids understand their illness and treatment. Additionally, they provide music therapy, physical therapy, and counseling services. There is also a huge emphasis on creating an environment to help kids thrive while receiving treatment. They even have a school so kids don’t fall behind on their academics.
I had such an incredible and eye-opening experience attending the St. Jude 2022 Partner Summit. I’m so thankful to have been given the opportunity to see St. Jude Children’s Research hospital in action! It is a magical place and I hope that one day you will get the opportunity to visit, too. I also hope that by sharing my experience, I might have inspired you to join us or to continue your support of the Marcum Foundation in its ongoing effort to partner with, spread the mission of, and raise funds for St. Jude in the fight to end childhood cancer and catastrophic disease. With your continued support, it is our goal to one day be in league with companies like Target, Shift4 Payments, and Domino’s!
As a first step, the Marcum Foundation will dedicate a brick along the path at St. Jude – symbolizing our dedication to helping build a brighter tomorrow for the children who are cared for at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.