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At St. Jude, Experiencing Is Believing

November 18, 2011

What can I say about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that truly describes the experience of being here? Not much. It’s one of those rare places where the cliche is true, seeing really is believing.

You can hear about all of the incredible things St. Jude does — from 100% free care and support to freely shared research by world-class doctors and scientists — and yet it doesn’t really mean anything until you’re chatting casually with a father and son, the latter a smiling 6- or 7-year-old with a prominent scar across his skull yet smiling the biggest grin you’ve seen in ages.

You can expect St. Jude to be a sad or depressing place. After all, it’s where some of the sickest of the sick kids get treatment, where many, many children win the battle against cancer but a few ultimately don’t, where patients range in age from a few months to 18 years old.

But it’s not sad. Or depressing. Or downbeat in any way.

When you’re here, you realize that St. Jude is an overwhelmingly happy, joyous place. Even those children who were visibly ill were mainly smiling, upbeat and acting like, well, normal kids.

They wanted to have fun or, as one little boy toddling past said, ‘I’m going to see my friends.’

They wanted to quote their favorite lines from Puss and Boots, over and over and over again.

They wanted snow cones and cupcakes and popcorn and candy — lots of candy — during the movie screening. Cancer can’t compete with a cupcake.

Their parents want to stay connected. St. Jude provides free housing for families, some of whom have to live near the hospital for years at a time. During that time, the families never receive a bill — everything from groceries to doctor’s visits are covered. But sometimes only one parent can stay with the child in Memphis, which is why AOL donated — and has donated in the past — 20 mobile computer labs to the hospital.

These computers let kids and families stay connected no matter where they are in the world. With programs like Skype and AIM, family bonds can stay strong even across thousands of miles.

You may see the celebrity-filled commercials for St. Jude, receive fundraising fliers and hear about all of the great research and technology going on down in Memphis, but I wish everyone could come down here, even if just for the day, to see firsthand what’s happening. If nothing else, it will make you want to empty your wallet and support the work at this incredible hospital.

What ‘seeing is believing’ experiences have you had?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2011 8:51 am

    I can’t even imagine what a life-changing experience it must be to see a place like St. Jude’s in person. The courage, bravery, and faith are so inspiring that there really are no words to describe it. Incredible how a child’s light and love can change everything, isn’t it?

    Also — many kudos to AOL for being so amazing with the donations!

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