Corvettes 4 St. Jude : The First Million
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Saint Jude Thaddeus is known as the patron saint of lost causes and desperate situations. There may be no greater feeling of desperation than finding out your child has a catastrophic disease like cancer. Thankfully there was a great man who recognized the need for a hospital focused on this cause.
Comedian and Actor Danny Thomas struggled early in his career and turned to the Catholic Church where he asked of St. Jude “help me find my way in life, and I will build you a shrine.” Thomas’ career flourished going forward and he decided to make good on his promise in 1962 by starting the St. Jude pediatric treatment and research facility in Memphis, Tennessee. The work that has been done in the past 50+ years is nothing short of a miracle. Since St. Jude was established, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer, has increased from 4 percent in 1962 to 94 percent and the overall survival rate for childhood cancers has risen from 20 percent to 80 percent.
Jesse, a Corvette enthusiast and cancer survivor living in Florida, watched a St. Jude television special hosted by St. Jude National Outreach Director Marlo Thomas and felt a calling to help the hospital. He then traveled to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN to offer counseling, hope and prayers to the children facing their illness as well as to their parents, family and friends. Jesse is an active member of Corvette Forum, and turned to the site for support in launching his continued effort to help St. Jude in 2003. The response he received — and that the group continues to convey — has been nothing short of spectacular. Since then, Jesse and his fellow Corvette enthusiasts have continued to raise funds for St. Jude via the forum with each year being more successful than the last. Fundraising efforts run the gamut from soliciting individual donations to auctioning off Corvette parts and accessories donated by forum vendors and members. Members hold various car shows and events throughout the year in their regions to help support the cause and participate.
Each year the group meets along the banks of the Mississippi in Memphis to drive the Corvettes down to the hospital to present the donation for the year and let the children and their families spend some time with the cars. I was blessed with the opportunity to fly out this year to meet with the group and celebrate a special milestone. In 2014 the group had raised $854,601 in the past 12 years and broke their single year record with a check for $102,460. For 2015 the goal of passing the $1 million felt within reach.
In the early morning a group of Corvettes ranging across the entire 60 year spectrum filled a parking lot in Lakeland, TN. Corvette members and clubs from Memphis, Chicago, Texas, and various other parts of the US gathered to begin the drive to the hospital. This year the Beale Street Corvette Association joined in and the drive to St. Jude has continued to grow each year to over 50 Corvettes for 2015. The local Memphis police escorted the Vettes out onto the highway and we headed into Memphis.
The parking lot of the hospital filled with the noise of 50+ Corvettes as we spread to fill any empty space we could find. Faces of children, families, and employees peaked out of windows and doors to witness the spectacle and begin moving towards the group. Vehicle doors opened up and children from the research hospital began to fill seats and take pictures with the cars. Members of the Corvettes 4 St. Jude group smiled and laughed with the children and their families as they made their way through the line of cars. Whispers throughout the crowd discussed that the $1 Million number was within reach and phone calls were made to continue driving for additional support. Only hours later all the various emotions of the day came to a high point as the 2015 total was announced – $149,555.68. The group had now raised a total of $1,004,156.93.
We toured the St. Jude facility after the event and gained a better understanding of the growing need for support and the growing accomplishments that have been made by the Research Hospital. The team at St. Jude is making discoveries that are changing the way we treat catastrophic diseases in children and sharing the information around the world to ensure that every family has a chance to save their child. This post is titled “The First Million” because the Corvettes 4 St. Jude group is only gaining momentum and hasn’t let off the accelerator one bit. Their passion for the cause and support from the Corvette community will ensure that the children of St. Jude will hear a rumble outside each October and rush to see the cars roll in for many years to come.