Last February during Winter Long Weekend, 8 students and 2 teachers went to Memphis, Tennessee, to volunteer at Ronald McDonald House and St. Jude’s Hospital. It was a phenomenal experience for everyone.
St. Jude’s Hospital has 180 research programs all based around how to find cures and treatments for rare diseases. About $8 million is spent every day at St. Jude’s to help fund the families staying there so they don’t have to worry about expenses. All of the money is donated by foundations and individual donors.
The hospital only has 78 in-house beds; almost everyone who is being treated there is an outpatient who stay on St. Jude’s property at either the Ronald McDonald House or the Target House. The hospital is mainly dedicated to research facilities and treatment wings instead of housing. All of the families’ food expenses are covered by St. Jude’s, and there are shuttles every 20 minutes going from the houses to the hospital to get people to their appointments.
St. Jude’s Hospital is a remarkable place dedicated to helping families around the country and the world. The hospital is determined to create a comfortable environment for patients and their parents alike. It is child-oriented in many ways, even down to all of the check-in desks being kid height so kids can see over the top of them. Every wall in the building is decorated with murals and paintings done by both professional artists and patients. In each of the wings in the hospital, there are kids rooms and teen rooms that have games and activities based on specific age groups to let the kids be kids, and help them not feel like they are in a hospital.
The Blair group spent most of their time at the Ronald McDonald House where families stay for up to 3 months. These Bucs spent a lot of their time serving meals and eating with the families of patients, as well as organizing an Arts and Crafts night and Bingo nights. The highlight for Victoria Crow ’20 was the Arts and Crafts night because “being able to make the kids smile and help them forget why they were there, if only for a little while, was amazing.”
Everyone who went on the trip agreed that their experience was an unforgettable opportunity that was not only rewarding for the patients getting treatment, but also for all of those who volunteered. Abigail Morris ’20 stated “the trip was overall a wonderful experience.” She got the chance to interact with kids and parents, which inspired her because they were able to keep a positive attitude while enduring a difficult time.
Kendra Payne ’20 echoed Abigail’s appreciation for the trip, saying, “Going to St. Jude’s was an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and if I could go again, I would without hesitation.” She continued, “Although the parents and patients seemed a little hesitant to interact [with us] at the beginning, it was really special to watch how they opened up to the conversation and shared their experiences with us.”
Emma Abbott ’20 reiterated each point, and also added that “St. Jude’s was such as incredible experience that I would never have imagined before. The families were inspiring and the children were unbelievably strong. It really opened my eyes to the horrors in the world, but also the beautiful and enlightening parts of it.”
Volunteering wasn’t the only thing that the group did in Memphis. They also had the opportunity to tour around the city and visit tourist sites. They visited Graceland, the home of the King of Rock, Elvis Presley, and his family. It is now a memorial and museum dedicated to Elvis’s life and fame. They also toured Sun Studios, where Elvis got his first taste of the spotlight and where many, including B.B. King, made a name for themselves. The Civil Rights Museum, which primarily focuses on the hardships and progress of African Americans, was one of their last stops.
Everyone who went on the St. Jude’s trip to Memphis had an incredible time, and Blair welcomes anyone and everyone who would like to have a chance to experience this remarkable opportunity.
(Copyright 2019 Emma Abbot)