OPINION: The Time Is Now

For years, I’ve been a Partner in Hope for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. If I’m being frank, I was a Partner in Hope before I could afford it. My first Radiothon was in 2016, and at the time, I was working for the stations at an hourly wage of $7.50 an hour. I was sharing a two bedroom apartment with two roommates and we were counting pennies to be able to afford meals. $20 a month was a fairly big ask at the time. The question, however, was never “how can I afford it?”. The real question was “how could I afford to NOT do this?”.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is nestled in a bustling urban Memphis, TN. Every day, a new family will walk through the doors of St. Jude, knowing their child has been diagnosed with an incredibly aggressive disease, knowing their time is limited, knowing the odds, knowing the cost of treatment. They know what they have to do to give their child the best chance of survival… or so they think. This isn’t a normal place. Families will NEVER receive a bill from St. Jude; not for travel, treatment, food or lodging. It’s the hospital’s prerogative that the family only focus on helping their child live. All of the families’ needs are met with some of the best staff on the planet. They take care of the whole child, and the whole family. Even in the face of some of the most radical cases, these doctors and researchers persevere so that one day, no child will die in the dawn of life.

Take that in for a second: there are people who have dedicated their life’s work to make sure kids don’t die. It seems like a job that shouldn’t even exist. There are kids that won’t make it to adulthood because their lives were robbed by cancer. But that happens to other families, right? It doesn’t happen here… right?

I’m 28 years old. I personally know six mothers who have had to take their child who was under the age of ten to receive chemotherapy and radiation. I know three mothers who have had to bury their baby because they lost their battle. It might not be your family, but it’s all around you. It’s your neighbors, someone in your church congregation, a kid in your kid’s class. It happens in communities around the world, but probably most importantly to you, it’s happening in your neighborhood.

Childhood cancer brought Heidi Feyerherm-Smith into my life. It brought Carly Eilert. It brought Denae Birdsong. These impossibly strong women have had to live with a void that cancer created for them of losing a child, and year over year, they’ve fought alongside us to raise funding to eradicate these diseases from the planet. They don’t wallow. They’re the frontline soldiers, and now, I’m asking you to go to battle with them.

You’ve gotten to this point in my article which means you’ve had at least a little time on your hands. These families don’t have that kind of time. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital doesn’t have that kind of time, because none of us will stop until we’ve beat childhood cancer. We need you to stop thinking about why you should or shouldn’t. We need you to act NOW.

That little guy in the photo? That’s Hayden. He loves hunting and fishing and giving me crap even though I think he secretly likes me. He fought cancer and beat it when he was little. Now, cancer is taking him for round two, but he won’t give up. And neither will we: you and me.

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