Design Love / Gift Guides

Endless Ways to Give: A Chat With St. Jude Outreach Director Marlo Thomas

When actress-author-activist Marlo Thomas was growing up, her father, nightclub performer Danny Thomas, had a favorite saying: “There are two kinds of people in the world: the givers and the takers. The takers sometimes eat better, but the givers always sleep better.” Guided by this philosophy, the elder Thomas went on to found St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and for the past eight years, Pottery Barn has been honored to work with the hospital as a fundraising partner. To date, Pottery Barn has raised $18.6 million toward St. Jude’s groundbreaking efforts to find cures for catastrophic childhood diseases through its landmark research and treatment. In keeping with its founding vision, no child is ever denied treatment at St. Jude for a family’s inability to pay. That’s because St. Jude pays for everything, including the cost of treatment, travel, lodging and food for patients and a family member.

In honor of the holiday season, we sat down with Marlo Thomas to talk about St. Jude. For the past 21 years, she has been the hospital’s tireless spokesperson, raising awareness and funds in her role as National Outreach Director. Here’s our conversation:

For those who aren’t familiar with St. Jude, can you tell us a bit about the hospital?

“In addition to making sick children well, we are dedicated to two things: One is to raise awareness, so that mothers and fathers and grandparents and caregivers know that St. Jude is there when their child is sick and they have nowhere else to turn. A lot of hospitals don’t know exactly what to do — not because they’re bad hospitals, but they’re working only with what they know. At St. Jude, we work on what we don’t know. That’s because, in addition to treating very sick kids, we are also a research center — and that’s a very important distinction. And second, we also must raise the funds to do this life saving work. So the whole idea of our annual Thanks and Giving campaign is to raise both money and awareness so that we can continue this work.”

How does St. Jude help to make its patients feel happy and comfortable?

“Whether you’re an adult or a child, it’s important to be surrounded by joy and positive people. That helps the healing process.  At St. Jude, all of the walls are painted with fairy tales and murals. It doesn’t look like a hospital at all — it looks more like Disneyland! We also make sure that children enjoy a lot of play time. We have crafts and artwork for them, and every Tuesday we bring in dogs for a special petting time with the kids. And then there’s our Child Life department, where specialists work with patients and families to minimize stress and anxiety through age-appropriate activities. We also host programs for the children during the holidays, whether it’s Halloween or Valentine’s Day or even prom time — we give little dances! We want to help them not miss out on the experiences of normal childhoods. Our most exciting tradition is our off-chemo party, which we have to celebrate when a child ends chemotherapy treatments. We have balloons, cake, streamers, ice cream and party hats, and everyone gets involved in it — the doctors and nurses, the parents and children. In the end, our overall goal is to do everything we can to celebrate the children, make every day special and fun for them and to keep their spirits up.”

As a company, we’ve been so pleased to help in some small part. How can our customers and associates continue to help?

“For one thing, Pottery Barn is no ‘small part’ of our efforts. So far, you’ve raised $18.6 million — that’s amazing! It costs $1.8 million to run the entire hospital every day, so you’ve basically paid for ten straight days. That’s a lot of love. What’s also really important about Pottery Barn’s contribution to St. Jude is the commitment of your associates at the individual stores, who every year not only ask guests to make a donation to St. Jude at checkout, but know all about the hospital and answer questions of your guests. We feel blessed and inspired that the entire Williams-Sonoma Inc. family has joined us this way, and with such great enthusiasm and creativity. And, by the way, I just love your Gifts That Give Back — the beautiful home décor, the fragrance items and the mercury glass. I’ve actually bought a lot of the mercury glass as gifts this year. I love the collection!”

What can readers do if they want to do a little something extra to help St. Jude?

“They can go straight from this interview and click onto the St. Jude website and make a donation. They can also learn more about volunteering for St. Jude, and read all about our children. They can watch the videos and commercials we’ve made this season, with our great family of celebrities — Jennifer Aniston, Robin Williams, Sofia Vergara, Michael Strahan and all of the big stars who are involved with the campaign. Every one of them is invaluable to us.”

We love the new “Hey St. Jude” video! How did this video come together?

“We all took part in it. My brother Tony always had the dream of getting the rights to the ‘Hey Jude’ song. It ‘s such a natural for us. So he started by making calls to people he knew to get them involved. The staff at St Jude had worked with some of the stars, I knew some people — a lot of calls were made. It was such fun to do. We were able to use it for online only, and it still is up there and doing really well. About a million people have seen it so far, and it’s helped us raise a lot of money and awareness. And those two things are the lifeblood of St. Jude!”

 

Source: Photos courtesy St. Jude

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