This Thanksgiving season connects a circle that began almost 25 years ago. Somehow I knew then that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital would be a part of my life. I just didn’t know how.
I remember that Thanksgiving weekend in the 1980s vividly. I was only 16 or 17.
My cousin’s young daughter was raising money for St. Jude and she brought the fundraising form to our extended family’s Thanksgiving meal. Most people gave but I didn’t think much about it. I was a teenager living at home with little spending money. That was my mom and dad’s duty.
But when my cousin looked down the list of who had given, she noticed I had not and brought the form to me specifically. She said, “You never know when it will be your family who needs the services of St. Jude. It’s a good cause to support.”
Her words pierced me. Those types of thoughts were foreign to me as an energetic teen just focused on myself and my activities. But something was different about this moment. I knew in my spirit she was foreshadowing an event that was to be my future. I dug in my wallet and found a few dollars to contribute.
Nearly 25 Thanksgiving seasons later, those dollars increased significantly as my husband, sister-in-law and I, known as Team Belle Belle, raised $1,000 for St. Jude in honor of our niece, Belle Mitchell. The main Team Belle raised more than $5,000. More than 50 of us in two cities in two different states walked in honor of Belle for the St. Jude “Give Thanks. Walk” Nov. 20.
My cousin was exactly right, you never know, and yes, our family did need the services of St. Jude. In fact, we are still using the services of St. Jude and are so very thankful for them.
Belle’s brain tumor — choroid plexus carcinoma — was discovered when she was barely 2 years old. She is three and a half now. She lived in Memphis near St. Jude for almost seven months during the early part of her treatment. She remains a St. Jude patient, going back every three months for scans and evaluations. More treatment will be needed.
Our journey is not over but our faith keeps us strong while St. Jude gives us hope for a cure. And no matter how the story ends, we have been blessed by St. Jude.
Belle has very few memories prior to St. Jude. It is an extensive part of the life it has helped sustain. Our family now knows personally just how important the ministry and services provided there are as well as what a difference it makes to so many.
And I’m now the one urging others to dig into their wallets and find a few dollars to give because you really never know.