Deciding to donate to charity involves careful consideration of causes that prospective donors feel connected to. For example, when families deal with an illness, very often the focus of their charitable efforts are raising awareness of a disease or helping to find a cure for that particular affliction. That is why some of the best known and most widespread charitable groups available deal with prolific diseases, such as cancer.
One philanthropic organization that has been quite influential and very well-known for more than 50 years is St. Jude Children's Research Hospital®. Founded in 1962, St. Jude's is located in Memphis, Tenn., and focuses on pediatric treatment and research into children's catastrophic illnesses.
St. Jude would not be in existence if not for Danny Thomas. Thomas, whose real name was Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz, was an entertainer who was having trouble finding steady and profitable work. At the end of his rope and in great despair at not being able to provide for his family, Thomas, a Maronite Catholic, turned to prayer one night in a Detroit church. He prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, that he would be able to earn enough income to take care of his family. In turn, Thomas put his last few dollars in the church donation bin. He vowed to St. Jude that if he became successful, he would build a shrine to the saint. The power of prayer worked, and Thomas soon began to find employment, eventually becoming one of the biggest stars of television, film and radio in his day.
Thomas used his fame to fulfill his vow to St. Jude Thaddeus and to change the lives of thousands of children and families. In the mid-1950s, he began investigating the possibilities of building a children's hospital in the southern United States under the premise that "no child should die in the dawn of life." Thomas chose Memphis because it was the hometown of Roman Catholic Cardinal Samuel Stritch, who had been a spiritual advisor to Thomas and presided over his confirmation.
Thomas worked diligently and with a group of Memphis business leaders. Worldwide fundraising initiatives also were implemented, with Thomas and his wife, Rose Marie, personally asking for support. Thomas also solicited other Americans of Arabic-speaking descent to help support the St. Jude effort. In turn, he and others formed the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC®), which would be instrumental in raising funds to fuel the St. Jude dream. Today, ALSAC® is the nation's second largest health care charity and is supported by the generosity of nine million donors and the efforts of more than one million volunteers nationwide. Those volunteers come from all ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds, according to the 2014 Philanthropy 400 ranking from the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital opened its doors on February 4, 1962. Since then, the hospital has recruited the world's top doctors and has studied and introduced new and improved treatments for a variety of illnesses, including childhood cancers. The hospital helped improve the rate of survival of childhood cancer from 20 percent when Thomas first came up with the idea for the hospital to 80 percent today. In addition, children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, which was once a veritable death sentence, now have a 94 percent survival rate.
Patients of St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital never receive a bill for treatment, with all of the funding coming from donations. Learn more about St. Jude by visiting www.stjude.org.