Volunteers comes from all walks of life. They can be any gender, race or even age. These are 3 stories of local heroes, who have dedicated themselves to the battle against childhood cancer.
Story by Jeanette Wages
September was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital recently hosted Walk/Runs across the country. This year they went virtual with an interactive app to make the walk fun and exciting for those raising money. Danny Thomas opened the hospital in Memphis, Tennessee in 1962 to help end childhood cancer, while also making sure no family ever had to choose between bankruptcy and their child’s life. Since day one, no family has ever received a bill from St. Jude, including food and lodging for the families while their child is in treatment. This is all made possible by private donors, fundraisers and, of course, volunteers.
After a visit from the Tooth Fairy, Molly was chatting with her grandmother, “Grinky," about how she had almost $100 saved. Like grandmothers do, Grinky asked Molly what she had planned for all of her money. Molly hadn’t thought about it yet, but this set her to ponder what she could do with her funds. Most children would want toys or candy. Molly decided she wanted to donate the money to the sick kids at St Jude that she had seen on TV. Later that day, Molly went to her dad, Ben, telling him she was $3 short of $100, but once she got there, she wanted to donate it. Ben was floored by the generosity of his daughter and he and his wife, Nicki, gave her the last $3 to hit her goal and arranged with the local St. Jude ALSAC office to make the donation in person.
Molly’s generosity did not stop with that $100. Molly then began thinking of creative ways to earn more money to donate to St. Jude. She started watering the flowers for her next-door neighbor every day. Another neighbor, Elisa, donated masks she had made by hand for Molly to go door-to-door asking for donations in exchange for masks. Molly has been able to generate over $250 dollars from exchanging masks for donations and over $300 in total to date.
Stephanie Lista & Eric Moran
Three years ago, Stephanie and Eric met. On one of their first dates, Stephanie introduced Eric to a part of her world that has been near and dear to her heart for over five years by taking him to a gala for St Jude. Stephanie runs in honor of her father, who passed away 25 years ago of brain cancer and, for all of the kids battling cancer. Stephanie believes “Being a St. Jude hero is bigger than crossing a finish line; it's a constant reminder that every time we sign up for a race, we are helping a child live. Being a St. Jude hero is hope. Hope that one day we will find a cure, hope that our fundraising efforts will help another family celebrate another birthday together, hope that another child will get to receive their "no more chemo" party and walk out of the St. Jude campus cancer-free. Being a St. Jude hero has allowed me to meet amazing people including St. Jude families, along with making lifetime friends.”
Eric not only fell in love with Stephanie, but with St. Jude as well, when he went to Memphis for his first marathon. “Experiencing how heartwarming it is participating in the Memphis Marathon Weekend and seeing all the kids cheering you on because they know you're helping them reach goals each and every day with our support—and hopefully realizing someday that they were strong enough to persevere through all the hardships.” They have since run five races together as St. Jude Heroes and volunteered at countless events. Together, they have been able to fundraise over $12,000 since 2018 towards their goal of $50,000.
Ron Coleman has 13 years of experience in the field of non-profit fundraising for organizations like the United Arts Organization, raising money for theaters, and Homelessness Prevention fundraising to keep families in their homes. Having three sons of his own—Bobby, Matthew and Jacob, it was a no-brainer for Ron to join the ALSAC team for St Jude as the Regional Development Director two years ago. His primary focus in those two
years has been in Fitness Events, including managing the St Jude annual Walk/Run and Heroes Program. The Heroes Program currently has 1,600 runners in the DC region who enter races locally, as well as nationally and internationally, to raise funds for childhood cancer research. The Walk/Run is one of the most awaited events for the DC office, with typically about 2,000 participants every September. Each Walk/Run is planned and organized by a volunteer committee with the support of Ron and the rest of the ALSAC DC team. This year, Ron had an unprecedented challenge when events in the DC area came to a halt and his team had to think quickly how to keep people engaged and continue having a fun event, even if it was now virtual. The virtual walk on September 26th has turned into an amazing success, despite the challenges Ron and his team faced. People still managed to fundraise and hit their goals, realizing childhood cancer wasn’t going to wait for a pandemic to be over. Ron has shared his passion with every volunteer coming in to the DC events and his hope that one day no parent will have to hear the words “Your child has cancer.”