Dr. William Ferguson

The small-town sounds of Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer John Mellencamp will make for a big night at the 25th Annual Bob Costas Benefit on April 20 at the Fox Theatre. The highly anticipated event, which raises approximately $1 million annually for the Bob Costas Cancer Center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, is known for its star-studded performance lineups that in past years have included Jerry Seinfeld, Jimmy Fallon, Ray Ramono, Bill Murray, Conan O'Brien, Dana Carvey, Billy Crystal, Cedric the Entertainer, Kathleen Madigan and Jay Leno. This year will be no exception as event host Bob Costas welcomes the legendary Mellencamp and a yet to be announced comedic artist to commemorate the silver anniversary. The Indiana native and his band will be returning to the Costas Benefit stage with a set that draws from an extensive catalog of classic songs, such as Small Town, Jack and Diane, Pink Houses and R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

This year’s benefit will once again provide life-altering funds to the Costas Cancer Center and recognize the staff and volunteers of the world-class pediatric medical facility. Led by pediatric oncologist Dr. William Ferguson since 2004, the center annually provides medical treatment to hundreds of pediatric cancer patients, as well as kids with sickle cell disease and bleeding disorders. “The reality is that regular reimbursement for care doesn’t even come close to meeting the needs of pediatric cancer patients and their families,” Ferguson explains. “The types of programs we offer would be impossible to implement without this annual benefit." 

Last year, the center’s staff saw 70 new young cancer patients. Overall, a third of the facility’s patients are fighting leukemia and a fourth have brain tumors—numbers that are reflective of national statistics, Ferguson says. While each physician at the center has a specialty that allows patients to receive top-tier medical care, such as Ferguson’s focus on bone tumors, the facility is much more than a medical center, he notes. The center’s unique team approach and specialty programs combine to offer a physical and emotional treatment environment for the whole family. “When you look at the treatment of childhood cancer, it is very different than treating cancer in older adults,” Ferguson says. “In many ways, kids are much more resilient, but they also can be much more vulnerable. We’re giving them the opportunity to be normal kids and grow up into normal adults.” A team of experienced doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and secretaries navigates families through the lengthy and complex treatment process. “We have nurses who have been at the hospital for 30 years,” Ferguson notes. “They are a tremendous resource of experience, compassion and understanding. It’s really very special.” Beyond the center’s medical treatment, kids are offered special programs such as art therapy and play therapy, as well as psychological support and help from a social work program.

And another special bonus for patients and families comes in the unique form of surprise visits from the center’s namesake. “I’ve known Bob to drop in without any warning,” Ferguson fondly recalls. “It’s very impressive to see him with the families.” During one unannounced visit, Ferguson continues, Costas looked at his watch after visiting the cancer center and said he had even more time to spend at the hospital. “He went to see some of the inpatients. The kids and families are always so excited to see him. He is an incredibly generous, very nice guy, who is really interested in meeting people and talking with them. He’s really committed to it.”

Ferguson says Costas’ benefit allows the center to keep growing its ability to provide comprehensive patient and family treatment. “Patients need more than just medical care, they need the extra support and the extra programs. By attending this wonderful, entertaining benefit, it really helps our hospital. And it’s not often that you can do the right thing and have a good time at the same time.”

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