St. Jude reaching out to new friends

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ROGERS — Ruth’s Chris Steak House was the site of the first Northwest Arkansas “friend raiser” for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. If attendance and interest are an indicator, there will be more of these events to come.

Northwest Arkansas has been identified by St. Jude as a philanthropic-minded community and an important region in which to spread the word about the Memphis-based children’s hospital.

“We haven’t done a whole lot in Northwest Arkansas. We really just want to reintroduce ourselves in the area,” Meredith Perkins, regional event marketing representative for the hospital, said prior to the March 26 event.

“We’re not asking for money, we’re asking for involvement,” she added.

About 40 people attended the casual affair, including two families whose lives have been touched by the care they received at the hospital.

Emma McDermott, mother to now 3-year-old Mary-Grace, talked about the long months of seeking a diagnosis for her sick child. St. Jude was the first to correctly diagnose and then successfully treat the little girl’s leukemia. The family knew they were in the right place when they were greeted by Santa in the parking lot in late December 2010, the mom said.
Next, an emotional Tracy Wallace relayed her daughter Samantha’s experience with St. Jude. The teen became a patient at the hospital when she was 3 and diagnosed with cordoma, a rare slow-growing neoplasm.

The Wallace family has been returning to St. Jude for the last 15 years for surgeries and annual treatment. Tracy Wallace said that St. Jude is like “no place on earth” and that  “the doctors are like our family.”

“We would never have made it financially” without St. Jude, the mom said.
No patient ever pays for anything at St. Jude, and the groundbreaking research is shared freely with doctors and scientists around the world.
St. Jude was founded in 1962 by the late entertainer Danny Thomas with a mission to cure childhood cancer and other catastrophic diseases through treatment and research. The hospital now averages over 7,800 patients a year. Thomas’ daughter, actress Marlo Thomas, now carries the torch for St. Jude.
The first Northwest Arkansas event for St. Jude will be the “St. Jude Give thanks. Walk” Nov. 17 at Arvest Ballpark. The annual walk is conducted in more than 90 communities across the country on the same day. Perkins said the organization is looking for walkers, as well as volunteers and ideas for other events in this area.