Guest Blog Post by: Todd Schutte
Todd was the top fundraiser during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Warrior Dash recently sent him to St. Jude to see the direct impact of all his fundraising efforts. Here’s what he had to say about his experience at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN:
I was going to start by saying, “If you ever get a chance, you should……”, but after my experience at St. Jude, I must insist that, “You need to put it at the top of your bucket list to visit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee – and then set it in your heart to go out and help raise some money to support their incredible mission!!!” It will change your life and help you keep your priorities and blessings straight as you get pulled this way and that in everyday life. To learn the humble history and incredible success of this fantastic organization and then to see them living out their mission of “Finding Cures. Saving Children.” is beyond words. More like seeing a dream come true. In fact, it’s seeing Danny Thomas’ dream come true – and probably beyond his wildest dreams to look down from Heaven and see where it’s at today!
The first thing you notice, and as beautifully explained by Nolon, our energetic and knowledgeable tour guide, is how completely kid-centric the facilities are designed and maintained. From the lower desk tops at registration to the ceiling décor (for those riding through the halls on a gurney), to moms and dads pulling their kids around in wagons, to the themes of each waiting area and wing – it’s all to make the kids feel more in their element, a happy place even, while they deal with much more than most of us ever have to confront. And then there’s the Kay Kafe – one cafeteria for everyone to eat at – patients, families, doctors, researchers, everyone! Any why? Because the message is clear that “we are ALL in this together”, in everything that we do – we are going to carry on this fight together! And knowing that life goes on, even while undergoing treatment, the staff goes over the top to make sure kids don’t miss out on key events like birthdays, proms, dances, Halloween – all the small things in life that most of us take for granted. To see the smiles of joy on the faces of these kids in the pictures from these events is a humbling experience, and makes you realize that it really is the small things that mean the most and stick with us for the rest of our lives.
Be prepared to pull out some tissues as you walk through the Hall of Art. It’s very touching to see not only how talented that many of the patients are, but even more so to see and read their thoughts about their fight, their journey, their families, their disease, their care givers, their life! From the youngest to the oldest, through their art you can feel their fears, joys, struggles, triumphs, and realize that that they are just kids – fighting a terrific battle with some terrific support. One of my favorites was a Star Wars themed, “The Force is Strong in this One!” There’s also the picture of “Tyler” with his journey beads (not sure the exact name of this program), that every patient gets, that signifies every detail of their courageous efforts during their treatment at St. Jude (good events, bad events, progress, set-backs, treatments, reactions, parties, everything). The smile on his face, with a huge strand of beads wrapped around his hand and arm, says, “Look at everything I’ve been through – and I won!” Indeed, The Force is strong throughout St. Jude!
And then to learn of the success that St. Jude has had to not just treat patients with these catastrophic childhood diseases, but to try and prevent them in the first place. A great example (and only one of hundreds of types of cancer and other diseases treated and researched at St. Jude) – acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer had a survivor rate of just 4% when St. Jude opened in 1962; and today toasts (no typo) a survival rate of 94%!!! That’s right, from 4% to 94% in only 60 years!!! But it’s not just the dramatic improvement in survival rates, but the stories of treating the whole patient and not just the disease; the individualized treatment plan that each patient receives (based on findings through years of research); the concern over long-term effects of chemotherapy and radiation, so as not to cause more issues later in life; and of course the new treatments, pharma innovations and break-through programs all developed at St. Jude. It’s really mind boggling to try and take it all in!?! Proton therapy, the Genome project, the first to measure the effects of radiation on a child’s brain – and then change protocols based on those findings to help kids long term; their work with Sickle Cell and other diseases – and with all these it seems like one discovery always leads to several blessings and new and better procedures, medications and cures!
Perhaps the most impressive thing to me about St. Jude, especially given the “that’s mine, for me, cha-ching” society that we’ve grown accustomed to today; is that they openly share their research and findings. Most other organizations would keep this kind of information tightly under wraps for their own financial gain, but St. Jude believes that better treatments, more cures and faster cures will come through this sharing – and that’s what’s best for the kids – for our kids – for St. Jude’s kids!
So, what does it truly mean to be a St. Jude Warrior? It means that you’re helping to further the realization of Danny Thomas’ dream and the dream of all the patients who come through St. Jude – to Find Cures and Save Children. Usually people relate being a warrior with conquering things and taking things, but being a St. Jude Warrior means we’re not “taking” to conquer but “Giving to Conquer”; to conquer childhood cancer and all the other bad stuff!!! Plus, it means that St. Jude Warriors sleep easier at night than non-warriors! Why??? Because, as Danny Thomas stated, “There are two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. The takers sometimes might eat better, but the givers always sleep better!” 🙂
Go and visit St. Jude in Memphis. Learn all that you can about this incredible organization while you’re there and on their website – www.StJude.org. Then get out and spread the work through all the avenues that you can think of, asking your family, friends and co-workers to help you, help St. Jude!!!