Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Target House at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital - a happy place during a stressful time

Some time in the 1930's or so, a young American performer of Lebonese/Syrian descent was struggling and appealed for divine intervention. He made what was likely this common Catholic prayer to St. Jude Thaddeus:

"Most holy apostle, Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone. Make use I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you, to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly – (specific request here) and that I may praise God with you and all the elect forever. I promise, O blessed Saint Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you.  Amen."

In 1962, the year I was born, the 5-year survival rate for Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of childhood leukemia, was 4%. Today, it's 94%. For every 100 children who are diagnosed today, 90 more children are saved.


When actor Danny Thomas (born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz in 1912 in Michigan) made this prayer and pledge in his darkest hour, he likely had no idea what would be accomplished by the 21st century. Indeed, most of us would have paid our "debt" by making a few appearances and writing some checks to a worthwhile cause. Mr. Thomas dropped a stone in the water and it literally ripples across the globe and will continue to do so until the survival rates for all childhood cancers and related diseases are 100%.


The emotional highlight of our all expense paid Brizo Blogger 19 reunion trip to Memphis was a day spent at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, founded by Danny Thomas in 1962 after years of fundraising and planning. The morning began with the handing out of tissues on the bus followed by a warm welcome from the Brizo team. Breakfast was held in the Danny Thomas ALSAC (American Lebonese Syrian Associated Charities) Pavilion which is a shrine to Mr. Thomas' career and ALSAC, which is the fundraising arm of St. Jude. The gorgeous space, recently renovated with private Thomas family funds, is a fabulous mix of colorful Middle Eastern motifs and Hollywood memorabilia. Emblazoned on the ceiling under the dome is text that reads "He who denies his heritage has no heritage". ALSAC was founded by Lebonese and Syrian immigrants and descendents as a thank you to America for taking them in.

So, with tissues in hand, we began our day touring Target House (as in Target), the all expense paid, no expense spared housing for long-term patients and their families, and St. Jude hospital which cares for patients and does leading clinical research which is shared freely with medical communities throughout the world.  Amazingly, seeing the kids and interacting with them didn't bring on the tears - and there are some pretty sick kids there. For me, it was the magnitude of the institution, the outreach, the participants, staff, corporate and celebrity sponsors, and the tiny moments of thoughtfulness and even joy. No stone is left unturned. They are not just saving lives, at St. Jude every day is about preserving today for each patient and their family. No patient receives a bill for any medical care, housing or living expenses, or education for patient and siblings during treatment. And while every child in the country sadly can't be cared for at this remarkable place, all sick kids throughout the world receive the benefit of the world-class research that goes on there. They develop protocols and targeted treatments for individual illnesses, and then share what they've learned - the recipes as it were - with the world for free.

The most obvious thing about both Target Houses (there are two) and the hospital is that neither looks or smells like an institution. They are bright, colorful, pristine, happy spaces. They even smell nice.

I wanted to share some of my pics from Target House. Later on this week I'll have more about the hospital. Obviously, we didn't take photos of any people - patients, family members or staff. During the day, most patients and their families are at the hospital undergoing medical treatments, which is why we were able to take so many photos in the living space.



 Snow boarder Shaun White sponsored this mod great room that is geared towards teenagers. It features comfortable crash sofas, tv sets, bright colors and photos of Shaun doing his thing.  The walls are stenciled with no-VOC paints as they don't use wallpaper, which can attract dirt and allergens.


The Amy Grant Music Room is modeled after the singer's own living room and features a gorgeous grand piano, bongos and a closet full of musical instruments. The seating is plentiful and plush (and sized for both adults and kids) and is a great hangout in the evening as it's separated a bit from the rest of the house. There is also a low chair for Amy herself to sit in when she comes to play her guitar and sing for the residents.


 The Brad Paisley Family Room is modeled after Paisley's own family room and is filled with musical and cowboy references. It too features comfy furniture, plus a one-of-a-kind chandelier made up of his own guitar's, a guitar pick embedded table and the cutest rocking saddle "hobby horses" you could imagine. And like any typical family room, there is a nook for Paisley family photos including his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley and their kids. Yee haw!

The well stocked Arts & Crafts room was donated by Olympic skater and cancer survivor Scott Hamilton. The arts is a huge part of the St. Jude experience as it gives kids a way to express their experiences when they don't have the words. Hamilton also donated a well-stocked work out room for parents who need some ways to relieve their stress.


The Tiger Woods Library features both children's and grownup books, dvd's, comfortable seating, lots of color, including Tiger's signature Sunday Red.


Tiger Woods also donated the outdoor pavilion as well, which connects the two Target Houses to each other.



The elephant is a symbol of Target House - as it is a symbol of strength, protection and good luck. The Elephant Wall is a light-hearted, yet poignant, place to showcase the involvement of the many celebrities who contribute time and resources. The beautiful elephant in the middle was done by designer Cynthia Rowley. And there is a simple crayon drawing by Jon Bon Jovi and his son (not pictured) that is just as charming.

Target House facility has 96 small apartments for families whose child is in treatment for longer than 90 days. These apartments have full kitchens, a living and dining area and two bedrooms, intended to sleep four. St. Jude not only treats the ill child, but also tends to the needs of the entire family. Their goal (aside from a total cure) is that the family should be free to focus on the heath needs of their sick child and the well-being of their siblings, without having the added stress of healthcare costs, transportation and living expenses. One has to imagine that this level of holistic care plays an enormous role in the survival rates, along with the superior medical care.

More later on this week about St. Jude the hospital and research center itself. 





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