Every September, parts of social media go gold in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Profile pictures change to gold ribbons with the words, “Go gold for kids fighting cancer.” For families and loved ones of children with cancer, every single day is dominated by the horrors of these catastrophic illnesses. For everyone else, September is a reminder of the terrible battles that some of the youngest, most innocent members of our society have to fight. No one wants to think about little kids getting cancer. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and one so horrible that it’s easy to want to turn away from it. But, the reality is that cancer is the number one cause of death by disease among children. Every day, 43 kids in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with cancer and approximately 1 in 285 children in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday. Most current standard treatments for pediatric cancer were approved 32 years ago, and due to the toxicity of treatments, 2 out of every 3 survivors will develop at least one chronic health condition. It’s clear that current pediatric cancer treatments aren’t good enough, yet only 4% of the billions of dollars received by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is directed toward pediatric cancer.
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Only 4% of the NCI budget goes to all types of pediatric cancer combined. It’s a devastating statistic for families whose children have been diagnosed with cancer because more funding would mean more research, which could someday lead to a cure for all childhood cancers. Because pediatric cancer gets so little funding, foundations and organizations dedicated to funding pediatric cancer research are the pillars of hope for parents and caregivers with sick children. One such organization is also one of the largest pediatric cancer research hospitals, and our charity of the month: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The mission of St. Jude is to advance cures and means of prevention for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment, and no child is denied treatment based on race, religion, or a family’s ability to pay.
The research hospital was founded by Danny Thomas, an American actor, singer, and entertainer who created and starred in the Danny Thomas Show. Before Thomas achieved great success in the 50s and 60s, he was a struggling young comic who had trouble getting work. In the height of his despair, he turned to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, and vowed to build a shrine dedicated to the saint if he found success. After becoming one of the biggest stars of radio, film, and television in his day, Thomas used his fame to fulfill his vow. On February 4, 1962, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital opened in Memphis, Tennessee. Since then, St. Jude has become one of the world’s premier pediatric research institutions, and treats children from all 50 states and around the world.
Treatments invented at St. Jude have raised the childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to over 80% over the past 50 years. The research hospital shares all the breakthroughs it makes so that doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save more children. As the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Care Center devoted solely to children, St. Jude leads the way in advancing cures and improving treatment for pediatric cancer. It has the top survival rates for some of the most common and aggressive childhood cancers, such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia and medulloblastoma. Not only does St. Jude change the future for children everywhere, it is a place of hope for families who cannot afford the astronomical costs of cancer treatment. All patients accepted for treatment at St. Jude receive care regardless of whether or not their families can pay for it. Insurance is accepted, but patients never receive a bill, regardless of the duration or the cost of care. St. Jude covers treatment, travel, housing, and food, so that families can focus on helping their child live without worrying about financial strain.
Although St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is one of the largest healthcare charities in the world and is dedicated to only children, the majority of its funding comes from donors. Because all pediatric cancers are still considered rare, there is not enough funding for it. Most of the financial support that researchers receive is from philanthropists. Every October, pink ribbons are seen everywhere in a show of support for breast cancer awareness. Almost everyone knows the meaning behind a pink ribbon, while only a few know the significance of a gold one. In 2012, President Obama proclaimed September as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month as a way to honor children and survivors affected by pediatric cancer. By raising awareness and support in their efforts, scientists can continue the research and treatment of pediatric cancer so that children everywhere can have a fighting chance. Here at Kyte BABY, we’re proud to choose St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a facility that saves children’s lives globally, as the recipient of our September donation.