Pediatric cancer has been a cause close to my heart for the last three years since the death of Declan Carmical, a little baby in my neighborhood who died of a brain tumor in August 2010. More recently, Gavin Rupp, an active 13-year-old in my community, died of cancer this past July. So, when Expedia invited me to Memphis to visit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, it was impossible to say no.
If you don’t know much about St. Jude, here’s a quick primer. The hospital was founded by the late actor Danny Thomas and opened its doors in 1962 with the goal of defeating childhood diseases, primarily pediatric cancer. Due in large part to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, childhood cancer survival rates have increased from 20 percent to 80 percent, and the goal is to reach 90 percent in the next decade.
St. Jude provides children and their families with medical care, housing and food. They even pay travel expenses so children can get to St. Jude to receive the care they need. Cancer does not discriminate and neither does St. Jude, so all families are eligible for life-saving care and never receive a bill.
Visiting St. Jude & Target House
September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and to kick it off Expedia invited a small group of travel bloggers, including Elaine at Carpe Travel, Katie at Luxury Travel & Lifestyle (aka La Jolla Mom), Sharlene at Trekaroo and me, to Memphis to learn more about the work of St. Jude and a new campaign from Expedia to help travelers support pediatric cancer research and treatments.
First, our visit to Memphis. On our first day, we visited Target House, an amazing facility for patients with treatments scheduled to last more than three months and their families. Many of the rooms, including a music room, a library and a game room, are funded and decorated by celebrities, including Tiger Woods, Amy Grant and Shaun White. All patients receive a two-bedroom apartment, transportation to and from St. Jude, and even a weekly gift card to use for groceries at Kroger.
That evening we were able to volunteer at an Around the World party for patients with lots of foods from around the world, games, crafts, a photo booth and dancing. It was amazing to meet the patients and families. Of course it was sad to see so many little ones battling cancer, but there was so much joy. So much hope. So much love.
Target House is an amazing place and they work hard to put smiles on the faces of residents. It was so interesting to learn about all they do for their patients and families. For example, since many patients cannot go to restaurants, Target House added booths to the large dining room to make it feel more like a restaurant. They also have an in-house beauty salon so patients losing their hair due to chemotherapy can get their hair cut without having to go out to a community hair cut shop.
The next day, we went to St. Jude for a tour. We saw all areas of the hospital, and even heard from a young, passionate research scientist working to learn more about a specific type of cancer affecting children. I was especially pleased to find out that every dollar taken in at the in-house Starbucks goes right to St. Jude.
Before we left Memphis, we had a chance to listen to a panel with a patient, his mother, his step-mother and his doctor to learn more about what St. Jude means to them. We also heard from the head chef at St. Jude and the work he and his team do to make sure the kids, many of which don’t have an appetite due to their treatments, get the nutrition they need to battle their cancers. It was incredibly interesting.
How You Can Help By Traveling
To benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Expedia has developed a few ways for travelers to show their support and I hope you will participate if you can. Take a look:
1) Travel Giveaway
Throughout September, travelers can visit http://stjude.expedia.com to enter to win more than 150 exciting travel packages. Each entry is just $5 (suggested donation) and 100 percent of the entry fees go to St. Jude. Enter to win as many trips as you like at just $5 each, and you can enter once per day. Here are a few of the exciting trips:
- Maui, Hawaii: Four nights at the Fairmont Kea Lani and a sunset catamaran cruise plus snorkel or eco-adventure to Molokini with Pacific Whale Foundation Eco-Adventures.
- Montana Outdoor Adventure: Four nights in a luxury cabin from Moonlight Mountain Homes in Big Sky, Montana and a $1,000 Expedia gift card to put towards airfare or car rental.
- Bali, Indonesia: Five nights at the Conrad Bali in a deluxe garden room, including breakfast, a couples massage and $500 Visa gift card.
2) Travel Coupons
Make a $25 donation through http://stjude.expedia.com and receive either a coupon to save 10% off a hotel you book online at Expedia.com or 20% off when you book a hotel using the Expedia mobile app.
3) Expedia Rewards
If you participate in the free Expedia Rewards program, you can donate accrued points, which will be converted into a monetary donation. You can sign in here to donate your points to St. Jude.
Or, feel free to donate directly to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital via the St. Jude website. Twitter users, be sure to follow the hashtag #ExpediaStJude all month long to learn more about the partnership between Expedia and St. Jude.
Disclaimer: Expedia paid for my travel, meals and accommodations, but I was under no obligation to post about my trip. Pediatric cancer is a cause close to my heart and I was more than happy to share this experience and campaign with my readers.