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St. Jude: The Dream of Danny Thomas

Bob Hope, Jimmy Durante, Danny Thomas
Bob Hope, Jimmy Durante and Danny Thomas (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Since opening in 1962, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee has been a ray of hope for children fighting cancer, sickle cell disease, and other deadly illnesses. St. Jude has been a pioneer in cancer research and a rare bright spot in the lives of families going through the ordeals of childhood cancer. It all started with the dream of one man, Danny Thomas.

Danny Thomas was a known comedian and television and film actor known for his role in the show “Make Room For Daddy.” As a struggling young actor, Thomas, a devout Catholic, prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, to be shown his purpose in life. He vowed to build a shrine to St. Jude when his purpose was revealed.

That shrine became St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The hospital opened on Feb. 4, 1962, complete with a 5,000 lb statue of St. Jude Thaddeus from Rome, Italy.

“A dream is one thing. A realization is something entirely separate,” Thomas said during the opening of St. Jude,  “I publicly thank you, wherever you may be, for the support of this dream.”

St. Jude is funded primary through individual contributors and donations. Families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing, or food so that their main focus can be on helping their child get well.

Though Thomas passed away in 1991, his vision that “no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay” continues to live on. Thomas’ family, the nurses, and the doctor’s of St. Jude vow to never stop until no child dies of cancer.


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