Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Big Piece of My Heart

Warning: Overload & Sappiness Ahead!
As my IRL (in real life) friends already know, there is an organization that holds a very dear place in my heart, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.  I normally try to steer clear of all things political and potentially controversial on this tiny blog; however, this is a cause that I am so passionate about all stipulations go out the window.

I became involved with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital my sophmore year of college. No, I didn't know someone that was a patient (thank God!), nor did I know anyone that worked for St. Jude. It was merely a car ride.  A car ride that forever changed my life for the better.  As I was driving to class one morning I was flicking through radio stations, trying to find something good to listen to.  I stumbled across K95, the country station in Richmond, and immediately became completely engrossed in what I was listening to. It was a radiothon for St. Jude.  It was my first encounter w. the organization, one at the time, I knew nothing about.  The only commonality we shared was my love for kids.  I absolutely adore kids, have been babysitting since I was 11 (yikes! looking back I can't believe parents left their children with an 11 year old!!) and still do (even though I have a full-time career!).  There's just something so special about children and their unconscious ability to create such a positive and appreciated outlook on life, especially the small things us adults take for granted or all together completely overlook.  I'm often asked why I still babysit and the God honest truth is not because I need the money (ok I do enjoy the extra funds to fuel my shopping addiction), it's honestly because the little munchkins make my day.  They make me smile, laugh and forget all about stupid little problems or annoyances that make their way into my daily life.  They put everything into perspective and remind me of what really matters in this crazy world.  Okay, back to the as I was listening to this radiothon, patients and families were sharing their stories, struggles and miracles.  And I lost it. completely.  I started bawling my eyes out and couldn't turn it off.  As a "poor college student" I thought to myself what can I do??  I had to do something.  I didn't really work in college, I nannied for a couple of families sporadically but I knew that even my measley earnings could contribute something.  I immediately called in, on my caveman like Nokia phone, and became a Partner in Hope.  I figured one less shirt a month wouldn't kill me.  And Lord knows it was actually good for me!  From that day on there was no turning back.  I was hooked.  The next year I emailed the radio station to find out how I could get involved with the radiothion.  I volunteered to answer calls and take donations and it was truly an amazing experience.  Yeah, I had to be there at 5am but it was so worth the feeling I had knowing that I'd done my small part to help those amazing kids who were suffering and fighting for their lives in Memphis in order to bring about awareness and raise money so that the lifesaving work at St. Jude could continue.

When I graduated and moved to Arlington I was sad thinking that my St. Jude days were over.  Oh did God have a plan!  We purchased a condo that is ONE block from the St. Jude regional office!  ONE BLOCK! I couldn't believe it.  And I was pysched to be able to get involved again.  I started volunteering at the celebrity golf tournament, radiothons and joined Friends of St. Jude for DC.  I loved every minute spent raising awareness and helping those precious kids.  But my heart was itching to do more.  Looking into other possible opportunities I stumbled across a St. Jude marathon and half-marathon.  Oh H#*% no!  There's no way.  But there was.  I put myself up to the challenge of running the St. Jude half and running it as a St. Jude Hero.  And I hired a trainer, a good one.  You see I. don't. run. period.  My dad laughed, my hubby laughed, my friends chuckled and every odd was against me, heck I even laughed and doubted myself.  But I believed that my passion for the cause would get me to race day and help me cross the finish line.  It wasn't easy.  To this day it was the hardest thing I've done in my life.  When I started I had never run more than 1 mile in my entire life, and to run 1 mile nearly killed me.  But through the pain, tears, temper tantrums and slacking off I made it to December 5, 2008. 

Half way through my training was my 25th birthday.  I decided what better way to celebrate a milestone birthday than to see one of the greatest places ever made, St. Jude.  I told the hubby all I wanted was a trip to Memphis and to tour the hospital.  July 30th was one of the best birthdays I've ever had.  We arrived in Memphis with 2 large suitcases of toys and such that friends and neighbors had donated to the hospital for the kids.  The tour was absolutely fascinating.  I swear to you I was in awe. The entire time we were there I never once got a whiff of any hospital smell, which amazed me.  Every person we passed in the hall had a smile on their face and aside from the sick kiddos being wheeled around in Radio Flyer red wagons it was the cheeriest place on earth.  You don't even feel like you're at a hospital.  It is amazing how they have transformed a place that can be so gloomy and sad into a comfortable and happy place for those kids.  The trip was all the motivation I needed to finish out training and make it back to Memphis for the big day.
December 3rd we packed up and headed off to Memphis for my big moment of truth.  My parents went with us as this was going to be a momentous moment for me.  5am came bright and early on December 5th and with it came cold and wind.  What was expected to be a sunny day with mid-40 temps turned out to be a windy day with a kick-off temp of 31!!! I was freaking.  But I peed 12 times, tied and retied my laces and got in that corral.  Off I went.  3 waterstops, numerous texts to and from my trainer, multiple pictures of the scenery as I passed by, hugs from mom, dad and hubs, lots of runners jelly beans and 2 hours and 49 minutes later I ran into the Memphis Redbirds stadium and crossed the finishline.  Yeah, my time sucked, I know.  But you see all I wanted to do was finish.  I didn't care how long it took.  So I was a happy girl!
This year I was blessed to be a part of two wonderful committees, the Friends of St. Jude committee and the Give Thanks walk.  The walk was a huge challenge as it was the inaugural year and DC was expected to do great things.  Great things we did on November 21st.  We ended up exceeding our goal and raising $61,000 and exceeding our participation goal of 400 people. 

I tell you all this not to brag but to hopefully raise awareness about the wonderful things that the doctors and researchers at St. Jude are doing.  When St. Jude opened in 1962, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer, was 4%. Today the survival rate if 94%!!  And families at St. Jude are never asked to pay for treatments that are not covered by insurance, families without insurance are never asked to pay.  The hospital and the organization are amazing.  They do miraculous work and save lives everyday.  I hope that I could offer just a glimpse into the miraculous place that St. Jude is for so many precious children!

For those of you that live in the DC metro area, today is day 1 of a two day radiothon for St. Jude.  WMZQ 98.7 is hosting it and it will go through tomorrow.  I urge you to tune in via the web or radio.  The stories will touch your heart and make you really appreciate everything you're blessed with!

Give thanks for the healthy kids in your life, and give to those who are not. - Marlo Thomas
Love & Blessings!


  1. I love that Marlo Thomas quote. :) Having my little one in the NICU for a week was the scariest thing I've ever had happen to me...I can't imagine what the parents of children with cancer must go through.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Cherish!

  2. I worked at SJ when I lived in Memphis:) It is a wonderful place and I miss it sometimes even though I love Vanderbilt as well.

  3. This is such a touching story wow good for you! I would love love love to do a marathon but I couldn't ever do it, I am a terrible runner!! Those signs in the hospital are so sad :(

  4. Okay, so I cried, smiled and laughed all in one post, Cherish! You get the Best Post of the Week Award, and its only Monday! You have inspired me. :)