Where should we go for treatment? How long will the cancer last? Will it be fatal? How are we going to pay for everything? These are just a few questions that would weigh down your mind.
At St. Jude Children's Hospital you could cross out the last question. No family is ever turned away because they are unable to pay for their child's treatments.
Several Shelbyville Central High School student council members recently visited St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. The council decided to visit the hospital since they have chosen it as their philanthropy for the year.
"When we as a council began planning for the 2010-2011 school year, we thought about it and decided that we wanted a change," said Hayley Baker, club president. "St. Jude holds a special place in our hearts and we were very enthusiastic about our decision to make it our philanthropy for the year."
The students started their tour with a visit to Target House, the patient care facility for patients whose treatment is scheduled to last more than three months. Target House has 99 fully furnished two-bedroom apartments for the patients' families.
Several celebrities including Brad Paisley, Amy Grant, Shaun White, Tiger Woods, Scott Hamilton, and The Jonas Brothers, have donated large amounts of money to St. Jude as a way to make Target House more like home for the patients.
The Amy Grant Music Room, Tiger Woods Performance Pavilion, the Shaun White Great Room, and the Scott Hamilton Fitness Center are a few of the rooms that have been donated for the patients and their families to enjoy.
Not only do the patients receive free treatments, but they also receive free housing, food, laundry, or any other necessity of life. The families are provided with $100 Kroger gift cards each week so they can cook in their apartments or they can eat in the cafeteria at the hospital or Target House, free.
Following the students' visit to Target House, they went on to the main attraction, the hospital.
"The moment I walked in St. Jude I immediately felt I was a part of a huge family," said Amber Frizzell, student council historian. "While I was touring I had to keep reminding myself that I was actually in a hospital."
More than 70 years ago, the hospital's founder prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, and asked him to "help me find my way in life, and I will build you a shrine."
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital opened its doors in 1962, after Thomas had collected enough money from his friends, family, and even celebrities, including Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.
The hospital, on average, treats 5,700 patients each year, and most of them are treated on an outpatient basis. With only 78 in-patient beds in the hospital, St. Jude strives to make their patients' lives as normal as possible. Several features of the hospital include a blood donor center, a teen room, a Starbucks, an eye/dental clinic, a K-12 school, a chapel, and a huge cafeteria.
"Visiting St. Jude was a wonderful experience," said Jamie Bell, student council vice-president. "I never expected the hospital to be as loving as it was. If I were a patient I would love to be at St. Jude. They have activities for the families and they also have areas for kids to go and hang out with other kids their age."
The hospital focuses on the kids and making them as comfortable as they can be so they can get back to good health. The walls are decorated with bright colors, there are several huge aquariums, and they even have kid-friendly desks and chairs.
"My favorite part of the hospital was the ABCs of cancer wall," said Riley Richardson, SCHS junior class president. "It's so inspiring to see how the kids are feeling while they stay at St. Jude. Some of them were happy and talked about having hope and getting through the struggle, but there were some that talked about going through chemo and all its effects."
After the students toured the hospital, they heard a patient speaker and her mother tell their St. Jude story. The patient had been diagnosed with cancer three different times and the staff at St. Jude is continuing to help her fight for her life.
"The patient Cassidy's story inspired me not to complain about the little things in life," said Shelby Johnson, another student council member touring St. Jude's. "To see what she goes through every day makes me realize how lucky I am to be healthy. I think about her and her family every day and wish them the best of luck. With God, all things are possible."
It takes $1.6 million for the hospital to run every day and the SCHS student council is eager to donate to St. Jude so they can continue to help fight childhood cancer.
"I was so grateful to have the opportunity to see the hospital and Target House and to take students who are interested in providing service to others," said Miriam Pietkiewicz, student council advisor. "I'm excited about being able to help St. Jude through projects our council holds."
Though the student council is still not exactly sure about what type of fundraiser they will hold, they are currently in the midst of planning one.
"We have many ideas that we are beginning to pursue and we will greatly appreciate the support of the community when we begin fundraising," Baker said.