Sponsor Content

3 Reasons to Get Involved With St. Jude Presents: A Meal to Heal

st jude meal to heal gala

On April 23, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital celebrates its A Meal to Heal gala at the Crystal Team Room in Philadelphia. The charity event will raise necessary funds for St. Jude and its commitment to turn discoveries into life-saving miracles. Roseanne Raffa, a member of the planning committee for the gala, shares why she is so passionate about the organization, and why others should get involved with the upcoming event.

The History

When St. Jude’s Research Hospital opened its doors in 1962, the survival rate for childhood cancers was only 20 percent. It was the vision of St. Jude’s founder, the legendary and beloved entertainer Danny Thomas, to create a research hospital focused on caring for sick children while relieving their parents of the great financial burden. Today, thanks in large part to treatments created at St. Jude, the survival rate is now 80 percent for all childhood cancers.

Unlike most hospitals, St. Jude is funded almost entirely by donations. At St. Jude, families never receive a bill, not for treatment, travel, housing or food. Many of the children St. Jude treats each year stay at one of three St. Jude housing facilities, allowing them to live as normal a childhood as possible.

“This is such a terrible situation for a family to be in,” Raffa says. “For them to be able to focus on just taking care of the child and not have to be burdened with other worries—How are we going to afford to get there? How are we going to afford to pay these bills? Where are we going to stay?—is absolutely amazing.”

The Cause

Raffa has been donating to St. Jude for more than a decade, but it wasn’t until she took a tour of the Memphis campus in 2018 that she committed to getting more involved and connected with the gala committee.

“I ended up spending an entire day on that campus, which is easy to do,” she says. “One of the things that impressed me most is how involved the children are in the day-to-day goings-on. It’s a community bonded together, and you can feel that.”

In addition to the life-changing care provided by doctors and nurses at St. Jude, the research conducted there over the past 58 years has led to several groundbreaking discoveries. The St. Jude—Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project has become the world’s most ambitious effort to discover the origins of childhood cancer and seek new cures.

Raffa was also touched by the positive energy and sense of humanity she felt there, shown in part by the patient artwork lining the walls, including a poem by a 15-year-old who resolutely wrote to cancer that it “wouldn’t win the battle.” In fact, it was this experience that helped shape the theme of the gala that Raffa is helping plan. Through augmented reality, guests can expect to experience patient artwork much like Raffa did while learning about St. Jude’s Child Life program, which allows patients to express themselves through therapeutic activities like art.

“This is a hospital, but it’s so much more,” she says. “It’s a place with a big personality.”

The Experience

Attendees and sponsors of the A Meal to Heal gala get the opportunity to participate in a fabulous and fun evening by breaking out their finest duds and enjoying tastings from local chefs and a live and silent auction with some incredible prizes. But more than that, attendees get an opportunity to hear inspirational stories from St. Jude patient families themselves and, most importantly, get an opportunity to give back.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to network,” Raffa says.

If you are interested in sponsorship volunteering or attending St. Jude Presents: A Meal to Heal, contact Caitlin Wagner, Senior Regional Development Director for the Philadelphia Market, at [email protected] or visit stjude.org/mealtoheal