Every year, members of the Kids for Kids family travel down to Memphis, TN to tour St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. And whether it’s their first visit – or their fifth – the impact is still very moving.
“It’s a humbling and life changing experience that really puts you back on track and realize what’s important,” shared Steven Palladino who has visited St. Jude several times.
In April, 21 supporters spent two days in Memphis – one exploring the city while bonding as a community – and another intense day touring St. Jude, meeting patients, and seeing first-hand the impact Kids for Kids offers.
Another reason for the visit is for everyone to take what they saw and felt home with them to inspire others.
“I know that tomorrow at some point – whether you’re touring the hospital or meeting a child – there will definitely be something that touches your heart. So keep it, hold it, share it, bring it home. Use it as fuel for the fire so we can keep on growing Kids for Kids and what we do for St. Jude,” Robert Catalano implored at the welcome dinner.
First time visitor Jayson Siano took that call to heart.
“I was so encouraged to help as much as possible, and that was even before I visited the hospital. I can’t wait to take this inspiration back with me and do more to raise more money.”
Jayson was also joined by his business partners on the trip – Russel Helbling and Joseph Deal. Together they organized the first ever Winter Ball this past November, which raised $135,000.
For the tour through St. Jude, everyone was divided into two groups – first time visitors and veterans. The first timers were given a tour encompassing an overview of St. Jude and their history while veterans were led by a former patient who was able to give the group first hand insight into her experience as a St. Jude survivor.
Everyone also had an opportunity to spend one-on-one time decorating cookies with patients and their families.
For Jayson, that was very powerful. “I have two boys of my own – six and three. As I was sitting with kids the same ages as them, it made the hair on my neck stand up.”Unique to this year’s tour was a visit to the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Facility where doctors develop the gene therapies and vaccines administered to patients.
Because of the physical sensitivity of the work this group is doing, tours are extremely limited. Everyone had to dress up in full Tyvek gear in order to keep the space 100% particle free.
What makes this operation even more impressive is that the work they do is for the children – not the money. Their research not only helps St. Jude patients directly but is shared with the greater medical community – with any proceeds going back directly to St. Jude.
And for the first time, a member of the Kids for Kids Junior Committee joined the trip. Philip Bicocchi, who is a founding member of the Junior Committee and currently serves as President, was especially moved by Danny Thomas’ legacy.
The day started off with a visit to the Danny and Rose Marie Thomas Memorial Garden, which frames the burial crypt of Danny Thomas and his wife.
“That meant a lot to me because Danny Thomas started something amazing,” shared Philip. “It was an honor to give respect to him. The kingdom he built is unbelievable.”
Philip, like everyone else, came away from the visit inspired to do more to help children and families in need of medical support.
Since its inception in 2008, Kids for Kids Foundation has raised over $10 million for St. Jude, including $1.5 million in 2018.