For more than five decades, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life threatening diseases.

Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital located in Memphis, Tenn., believed “no child should die in the dawn of life.” His vision of ensuring children of all ages, races and creeds should receive treatment, no matter what the monetary cost, gives hope to many and helps to shine light on what may be a dark, dismal future. This idea all began when the young, struggling entertainer prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopelessness. “Help me find my way in life, and I will build you a shrine,” said Thomas. As his career began to flourish, he never forgot his promise.

To help fulfill his dream of providing aid to desperately sick children, he rallied 100 Lebanese and Syrian American community leaders to found the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC) in 1957, to raise the funds needed to build and operate St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Thomas asked them to embrace St. Jude as a way of repaying America for the opportunities given to them and their families.

Rose Marie Cassaniti, Danny Thomas’ wife and ALSAC president, played an integral role in the founding of ALSAC. In the summers of 1958 and 1959 she and Thomas traveled all across the nation raising funds from Arab Americans. In later years she produced the Rose Marie Thomas Gala dinner in Los Angeles, which raised more than $1 million annually for more than two decades.

On February 4, 1962, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital officially opened its doors and ushered in a new era of research and treatment that would unlock the mysteries of cancer and other life-threatening diseases in children. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since the first patient was admitted on March 16, 1962. On average, 7,800 active patients visit the hospital each year.

Thomas died on Feb. 6, 1991, of heart failure at age 79, in Los Angeles. Two days prior, he had celebrated St. Jude Hospital's 29th anniversary and filmed a commercial, which aired posthumously. He is interred in a family crypt at the Danny Thomas/ALSAC Pavilion on the grounds of the hospital. On July 12, 2000, his wife of 55 years, Cassaniti, passed away and now lies with her beloved husband.

St. Jude is the largest health care charity in America, and the 10th largest charity overall on the 2014 Forbes list of the 200 largest U.S. charities. Danny Thomas’ daughter Marlo Thomas currently serves as the National Outreach Director for St. Jude.  In fiscal year 2014, ALSAC raised $989 million for the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The average individual donation was $34.29. Unlike any other hospital, the majority of funding for St. Jude comes from the more than nine million active donors who participate in approximately 31,000 annual fundraising activities. Thanks to generous donors, families never receive a bill from St. Jude.

 

Make Room for Danny by Danny Thomas with Bill Davidson (1991: G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

Guideposts Classics: Danny Thomas on Keeping His Promise

Beloved entertainer Danny Thomas gets a 'forever' stamp

A prayer in Detroit: Danny Thomas and the saint of hopeless causes



Danny Thomas Dedicates St. Jude Children's Hospital 1962 HD Historic Footage

The Danny Thomas Show History and Highlights

I'll See You In My Dreams - (Movie Clip) It Had To Be You

The Jazz Singer (1953) - (Movie Clip) Who Sent For You?

Bing Crosby and Danny Thomas - The Road to Lebanon – 1966

Danny Thomas with the Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra Dean Martin Sammy Davis Junior at the Sands 1960

The Andy Griffith Show Pilot Opening Scene: Make Room for Daddy (The Danny Thomas Show)

 

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