A couple weeks ago we posted a summary of St. Jude June 2009 Annual Report. While no one on the PAC2 Facebook page commented, thank you to all the PAC2 members who shared thoughts on this emotional issue. I’ve done St. Jude/Chili’s events, the mall walks, and think PAC2 has demonstrated our support for any group trying to help the kids. I respect the work St. Jude has and is accomplishing. It is likely the premier childhood cancer research facility in the world.

But doesn’t it seem like there are two worlds of childhood cancer; the St. Jude one and then the rest? And don’t you get the idea that they could collaborate better? Isn't it the elephant in the room no one wants to discuss?

Listed below are facts from the St. Jude website or its June 2009 Annual Report:
  • St. Jude is ranked the No. 1 pediatric cancer hospital by Parents and the No. 1 children’s cancer hospital by U.S. News & World Report.
  • St. Jude is the first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children.
  • St. Jude is the national coordinating center for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium and the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.
  • St. Jude was ranked (2010) the most trusted charity in a Harris Interactive survey.
  • St. Jude received $682 million in support (donations and bequest) and $82 million in grants from NCI, NIH, and, historically, organizations like CureSearch for Childhood Cancer, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research.
  • St. Jude spent $282 million on research on all diseases.
  • St. Jude fundraising expenses were $135 million. ALSAC admin and general costs were $51 million.
  • St. Jude net assets are $2 billion.

 

Let’s face it; we are talking ExxonMobil, the big kid on the block, the top dog. And yes, thank God for what they have helped accomplish.

My concern is that there is a perception amongst the general public that the vast majority of all of our ‘rare’ cancer kids are treated at St. Jude, and that St. Jude is the only group making progress in the search for the cure.

I believe this perception perpetuates the paradigm of childhood cancer being 'rare' to the general public, and minimizes the problem as a whole. I’m certainly not saying it’s the intention of the hugely successful St. Jude branding and marketing efforts, but I believe it is a consequence. I further believe this perception can result in negative connotations for the efforts of others within the childhood cancer community.

Because the reality is, according to St. Jude, they accept 450 children/year, or 3.6 percent of the 12,500 diagnosed/year. The reality is there are thousands of researchers, Childrens Oncology Group members, hospitals and research facilities who are sharing resources and data, all working to cure childhood cancer. The reality is numerous other community and teaching hospitals nationwide treat kids for free. The reality is the other 96.8 percent of kids and families are supported by numerous other hospitals and childhood cancer organizations that equally need and deserve donations.

I'm NOT saying St. Jude does not help kids or that it doesn’t do incredible work. And I recognize that the business of charities is a business. But we'd all love to go out of business. In order to do so, PAC2s’ contention has always been that we need to work together as a team.

St. Jude is a leader on our team. We challenge the leaders of our country to act in the best interest of all citizens. Thus, as a leader in childhood cancer, I think St. Jude has an increased responsibility.

I firmly believe that if St. Jude expanded its message, sharing more information about the myriad and complex issues associated with childhood cancer as a whole, it could greatly increase the national public awareness and perhaps mobilize new resources. There is no one else with the long history of success in marketing and branding or a network of celebrities and connections like St. Jude.

But success isn’t measured by doing things right, it’s measured by doing the right things.

Here’s an idea: What if St. Jude (as a COG member) assisted CureSearch in lobbying Congress on the Carolyn Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act? Would that be the tipping point to help secure the $30 million/year in full funding? Or what if they advocated for a Rose Garden ceremony on September 13th with the President to help raise awareness of September as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month? Think of what that would mean in terms of awareness.

Maybe I overestimate its capabilities, or its mission. Honestly, I don't know. But I do know that the kids need every little bit of help that can get. And I do know that the leader of this country didn't know how to plug the oil spill in the Gulf, yet he accepted that responsibility and challenge as our leader, for the greater good.

We are all trying to win this fight to cure childhood cancer. We try to do our part, advocating, uniting and speaking as one voice against childhood cancer. We are but raindrops on the thirsty, cracked soil. St. Jude could be the burst of much-needed rain that makes the community thrive. Feeding the dream of everyone in the childhood cancer community to find a cure; and waking up to find we are all out of business.

I think that would make Danny proud.

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