Travel and charity have always been intertwined for me. All of my largest, and best trips have had some sort of volunteer/donor component. I’ve brought medical supplies to Siberian orphanages, and I’ve volunteered on archaeological digs. By far the most rewarding work was with children. I think that everyone who works and volunteers at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital would agree.
There is no place in the world quite like St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Founded by Danny Thomas in 1960, this hospital provides cutting edge treatment to children with cancer – helping heal when hope has been lost elsewhere. Talk about dreaming big….
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other deadly diseases. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food–because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. You can help by donating to St. Jude.
Some things that may surprise you about St Jude:
- Even though the hospital costs 1.7 million dollars a day to operate, patient care is totally free
- Patients are also housed for free in three different dorm/apartment buildings, depending on the length of their stay.
- St Jude accepts patients up to 18 years of age, and provides lifetime follow-up to those patients
- Chefs at St Jude go to great lengths to recreate family recipes, feeding sick children the ultimate comfort food. Even when that involves dishes like goat or blackened chicken, and getting Grandma to give up her famous mac and cheese recipe.
- The hospital only has 78 beds for in-patient care but over 7800 children are treated there each year, mostly on an outpatient basis
- The entire hospital is decorated with a “seasons” theme. The inspiring and uplifting message is that life goes on, even with cancer.
This past week I had a chance to visit and tour both the hospital and Target House, where Expedia hosted an “Around the World” party for some of the families in residence there. I interacted with patients and their families and got to hear them tell what being at St Jude meant for them. I can sum it up in one word:
It’s the difference between life and death, hope and despair. The innovative treatments being researched and delivered at St Jude are saving lives. Not just the lives of the children who have been referred there. For every life saved at St Jude, a thousand more will be saved as a result of the research.
People asked me if I was depressed after my visit but the opposite is true. Everyone at St Jude was so passionate and positive. This was infectious in the very best way.
Target House, the facility where we hosted the party, is an apartment complex that houses families while their children are in treatment. Families stay there for 90 days, up to three years. Typically one parent, and possibly one sibling, will accompany the child in treatment, but sometimes both parents stay. Target House learns a little bit about each family before they arrive and decorates the two bedroom apartments accordingly. Kids may find their favorite Disney characters or colors used in the bedroom.
Separate from the apartments are common areas – a playground, a library where you can borrow books and movies to take with you during treatments, a teen club where older kids can get away from it all, and a music room. Many of the common areas are donated and decorated by celebrities including Tiger Woods and Shaun White. I had the feeling of being at a resort or aboard a cruise ship in both Target House and the hospital. It made me so glad for the families there, that they were being thoughtfully cared for on this most important journey.
Making the face paint was important, as the children were undergoing treatment and we wanted to avoid unknown ingredients and avoid any cross contamination that could cause infection. We took care to use a fresh palette (paper towel with dabs of paint) and painting tools (Qtips and make up sponges) for each child.
The kids and their families really enjoyed the party – particularly “Dancing around the World” with Mickela of Travel Bare Feet who deserves a special shout out. She even got me dancing with her enthusiasm for travel, dance and life.
It was so wonderful to see the smiles as these kids did the Hula, Mexican Hat Dance and African Dances. You could just see them dreaming of the vacation they want to take one day. That light in their eyes was unmistakable.
I hope you will consider donating to St Jude
Face it, you’re going to have to go somewhere eventually and the travel coupon you’ll receive will save you lots of money, as well as save lives! Seize the moment!
Disclosure: I was the guest of Expedia in Memphis for a tour of St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Target House. All opinions are my own.