Mission: The battle against cancer is a constant one. However, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital wields a mighty weapon against cancer through the ongoing research efforts of its world-renowned doctors and scientists, who are constantly exploring new ways to protect children from the ever-adaptive foe. “The mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is to find cures for children with cancer, and other life-threatening diseases, through research and treatment,” says Nicole Stuke, regional director of American Lebanese Syrian Associate Charities (ALSAC) and St. Jude. “The advances made at St. Jude are helping to save children everywhere.”

History: St. Jude developed out of a heartfelt prayer that changed a man’s life. The entertainer Danny Thomas, best known for his starring role in the sitcom Make Room for Daddy, credits a pivotal life change to St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes. During his days as a “starving artist,” Thomas reached out to St. Jude Thaddeus through prayer, promising to pay homage to the saint for answering his pleas. Shortly thereafter, the success he dreamed of became a wild reality.

As his star of fame skyrocketed, Thomas remembered that fateful day and kept his promise to the saint by building St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, with two goals in mind: to fund research initiatives that could eliminate cancer for children, and to ensure families had a place to bring their sick children without worry of cost. With his wife, Rose Marie, Thomas set out to make the shrine a reality and garnered support. Thomas, who was of Lebanese descent, reached out to the Arab-American community, and ALSAC was soon formed with a sole purpose of raising the funds needed for the hospital. Through countless supporters and generous donations, St. Jude achieved both goals. “Because the majority of St. Jude funding comes from individual contributors, St. Jude has the freedom to focus on what matters most—saving kids, regardless of their financial situation,” Stuke says.

Community Impact: Between clinical trials and innovative research to laboratory developments that translate into fresh treatment options, St. Jude always strives to improve children’s odds of living longer lives. Beyond that, the groundbreaking discoveries by the hospital’s doctors and scientists do not stay behind closed doors.

“St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, so every child saved at St. Jude means that doctors and scientists worldwide can use the same knowledge to save thousands more children,” Stuke says. The hospital has extended its reach not only through shared information, though. Affiliate clinics reside in places like Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Charlotte, North Carolina, to name a few. The St. Jude International Outreach Program also has a shared mission to increase the number of survivors at a world-wide level, and does so through shared resources in 17 different countries, including China, Lebanon and Venezuela.

“St. Jude is leading the way in how the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Treatments invented at St. Jude have aided in raising the childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since it opened in 1962. But the work is not done,” Stuke explains. “St. Jude is working to defeat these terrible diseases, and won’t stop until no child dies from cancer. Generous donors help fuel the groundbreaking research and treatment that brings us closer to the day our founder, Danny Thomas, dreamed of—the day when no child dies in the dawn of life.”

WHAT/WHEN/WHERE:

The St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer,

Sat., Sept. 26, 2015, 8 a.m.,

Ballpark Village

This family-friendly event, in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, features food, music, mascots and cheerleaders, and children’s activities. For more information, call 314-925-5606 or visit stjude.org/walkrun.

How to get involved: Learn about ways to get involved, from coordinating events to volunteering and donating, at stjude.org, or call 800-822-6344.

ON THE BOARD: Joyce Aboussie

The life-changing mission of St. Jude flows strongly through Joyce Aboussie’s blood. “St. Jude has been interwoven in the fabric of my life, and is a big part of my DNA,” says the president and owner of Aboussie & Associates. Her father met Danny Thomas during his fundraising days for the building of St. Jude. “Danny asked for help, and my father agreed to join the cause. Today, I am humbled by the opportunity to serve in my current leadership role as a member of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital National Board of Directors and Governors.”

Much like her father did, Aboussie recognizes the valuable research efforts happening at St. Jude, and feels impassioned to share the hospital’s mission, while recognizing all that it has accomplished to this point. “St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is important to this community —and every community— because children from all 50 states and around the world are treated there free of charge,” Aboussie says. “And by sharing discoveries made, St. Jude saves thousands more children.”

The upcoming St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer reflects the hospital’s commitment to allowing families to seek care for their children free of charge. Aboussie reflects on the importance of this event. “Every step taken will be for the kids of St. Jude, including local resident Robbie. Robbie was 7 when found to suffer from a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Doctors at St. Jude came up with a treatment plan, and today, at age 14, Robbie is doing well and visiting every six months for checkups.”

From the overarching goal of ridding the world of childhood cancer to each personal success story of a child who came to St. Jude, the research hospital has stayed true to its founder’s mission. As Aboussie says, “Every child deserves the same chance at life.” And St. Jude continues to make that a reality for many children worldwide. Aboussie also strives to enrich the region through major civic and cultural endeavors, while supporting numerous charitable efforts in the community, but her top priority remains the children of St. Jude.