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St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: The Dads 4 Change Visit

Danny Thomas statue at St. Jude

They travel by car, bus or plane. They are wrapped in tears, arms and blankets. Their bags are full of fears and promise, perhaps a change of clothes or two. It is humid and sunny. It is icy cold. Memphis greets them all, regardless of route, time or season, and they make their way with everything they know lingering on the breath of a child. It is a trip of a lifetime, where life and time are all that matter. It is a journey, and it leads to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. All the costs are covered.

Should you find yourself walking in Memphis, be it Beale Street or Bass Shop, you will find friendly people and southern charm, lonely blues, famous barbecue, and the tragic ends of a man named King and another that they called one. The city is a living tribute to its own history, which is not to imply that it is some stale museum you can live in, but rather the engaging embodiment of all that has come before beneath an endless soundtrack of pain, progress, and something you can dance to. Every snapshot is a postcard. Every meal should be on Instagram. Some souvenirs are better than others.

In fact, the greatest takeaway that the city has to offer is not a shot glass or t-shirt, but the science and care of St. Jude. It is the fight to cure childhood cancer. It is saving lives.

We visited as press, Carter and myself, bracing for the emotional swell we expected and the people we would meet: parents just like us and children just like ours, not to mention those that work at St. Jude each and every day, all of them surrounded by cancer and the stories it could tell.

We braced ourselves for sadness. We were welcomed with their smiles.

St. Jude Patient Art

Art at St. Jude by children

We braced ourselves for sadness. We were welcomed with their smiles.

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of sadness to go around—it’s there, on the quiver of a parent’s lip as they share their family experience, or in the soft echoes of an empty hallway lined with the art of sick kids and the melancholy of innocent hope. Yes, the sorrow is there if you look for it, but it does not own the children of St. Jude. They do not give cancer that kind of power. They are far too strong for that.

Strength, it turns out, is contagious. And it is everywhere.

You will find it in the long hours of tiresome treatment and the heavy weight of always waiting. You will find it saddled squarely upon a parent’s shoulders, the constant support of their constant support. It is in the friendly eyes behind the desk and the eyes always searching through a sea of samples and the focus of microscopes, looking for answers and asking new questions.

Red wagons at St. Jude

Strength is tied by heartstrings and on every side of little red wagons, be it the back and arms of parents pulling or in the quiet patience of the patients riding.

Strength is in the spirit of a smile, and the knowing depths behind it.

We met doctors, scientists, nutritionists, chefs, fundraisers, shuttle drivers, shop clerks, tour guides, cafeteria workers, teachers and baristas. We met parents, current patients and patients cured. We heard stories and we studied stats. It was as powerful as it sounds and as inspiring an experience as we have ever known. We plan to tell you all about it, and we invite you to join Dads 4 Change in supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the fight against childhood cancer and their passionate mission to save children’s lives around the world.

Don’t forget your smile.

Whit HoneaWhit Honea is the co-founder of Dads 4 Change, the Social Media Director and Community Manager of Dad 2.0 Summit as well as a Senior Account Executive at the conference’s parent company: XY Media Group. Deemed “the activist dad” by UpWorthy (and one of the “funniest dads on Twitter” by Mashable), he is a regular contributor to The Modern Dads Podcast and the author of The Parents’ Phrase Book—a family guide to empathy.

2 comments for “St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: The Dads 4 Change Visit

  1. October 20, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Well said, guys…you really captured the hope and beauty of this incredible place.

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