A man once said, "Someday, God willing, we are going to beat all the odds and make childhood cancer a thing of the past." This great visionary was Danny Thomas, founder of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Over 70 years ago, when Thomas was a struggling actor, he prayed to St. Jude, the saint of lost causes, to help him find his way in life and promised he would build a shrine in St. Jude's name. When Thomas started receiving job offers, he knew his prayers had been answered. As his career began to pick up, Thomas read a newspaper article about an African-American boy who had died because he had been turned away from all nearby hospitals. Thomas firmly believed that, "No child should die in the dawn of life" and that no child should be turned away, regardless of race. So, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital began, and has been saving the lives of children with cancer since 1960.
As a Tri Delta, St. Jude is very near and dear to my heart. I always knew our philanthropy was incredible, and that the money we raised helped so many helpless children with diseases they do not deserve. But it was not until I had the opportunity to visit a St. Jude hospital that it really hit me how blessed I am to be a Tri Delta girl.
My sorority sisters and I were welcomed into St. Jude over fall break with open arms, and given a tour. I expected to feel welcome, but I did not realize how much each staff member, patient, and parent appreciated our philanthropy work. I did not realize how many people would smile at me or say thank you to me in recognition of the letters I wore on my shirt. Tri Delta means more to these people than any of us can even fathom, and my heart is so full because of it.
Tri Delta Place is an on-campus housing facility for families staying at the hospital long-term and is provided by Tri Delta chapters all over the country. This stop on the tour contained one of my favorite moments, and it's one I will never forget. We were about to walk in the door, when a mom and her daughter walked out. The mother stopped and asked, "Are you girls Tri Deltas?" When we replied with a yes, she put her hand over her heart and said, "Thank you so much. Seriously." The look in her eyes gave me chills as we all knew what she was thanking us for. Most of us were speechless. Then, she told her daughter that we are the reason she gets to live here. "Thank you," the little girl said shyly. My heart melted.
Before St. Jude was founded, the survival rate of childhood cancer was 20 percent. Today, it is 80 percent.
No family has to pay anything to go to St. Jude. No medical bills, no live-in fees, no nothing. No child will ever be turned away because of the inability to pay. Because of this, it costs two million dollars a day to keep this hospital running.
In November 1999, Tri Deltas across the country decided to adopt St. Jude as their philanthropic partner. Every fundraising goal we've made has been met ahead of the date promised. Each goal met has named certain places in the hospital after Tri Delta.
Our newest goal since 2014, $60 million in 10 years, named Tri Delta Place, and gave families with children in treatment another free place to stay.
Danny Thomas once said, "Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It's what you do for others." Thomas died in 1991, leaving behind a legacy he could truly call successful. His goal was to help children in their battles through seemingly hopeless diseases and to make sure more children would get to keep their childhoods.
I feel so lucky to have seen who we've helped in person. But even to those Tri Deltas who haven't visited St. Jude, I hope you all realize how much of an impact you have on so many families who would otherwise see no hope or future with their sick children. We are helping make this difficult journey a little bit easier; we are helping make childhood cancer research a success.