Anatomy of a Control: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
One of the truly inspiring stories of the past century is that of a Lebanese boy named Muzyad Yahkoob. Born in 1914 in Detroit, he grew up to become legendary comedian and television star Danny Thomas, as well as the founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
As the St. Jude Web site tells it:
“It was more than 50 years ago that Danny Thomas, then a struggling young entertainer with seven dollars in his pocket, got down on his knees in a Detroit church before a statue of St. Jude Thaddeus. … Danny Thomas asked the saint to ‘show me my way in life.’”
St. Jude, by the way, is the patron saint of lost causes. I know him well, because he enabled me to graduate from Andover in 1953.
After that, Thomas moved his family to Chicago, where his acting career got its start.
The entertainer repaid St. Jude mightily by enlisting the help of some Memphis businessmen and raising money to found St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is devoted to curing catastrophic illnesses in children.
Aside from crisscrossing the country to raise money and bringing scores of his colleagues from the entertainment world to Memphis, Thomas turned to fellow Arab Americans to persuade them that they “as a group, should thank the United States for the gifts of freedom given their parents.”
In 1957, 100 representatives of the Arab-American community met in Chicago to form the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities to raise funds to support the hospital.
The group, which has its national headquarters in Memphis and regional offices throughout the United States, handles all the hospital’s fundraising efforts and brings in millions of dollars annually.
Today, ALSAC is the fourth-largest nonprofit, health-related fundraising organization in the United States and is supported by the efforts of more than a million volunteers nationwide.