“I think that certainly helps to be recognizable, and the fact that [Danny’s] daughter is involved I think adds to the authenticity of [St. Jude] because people feel that it’s obviously a moving story that she’s continued on after her father has passed,” she says. “It may have been that way even if she wasn’t a celebrity, but the fact that people recognize her as ‘That Girl,’ and she has a very particular personality in the public is, I think, pretty powerful.”
Powerful, too, is the star power St. Jude attracts and the wildly successful campaigns it drives.
ALSAC/St. Jude’s radio fundraising program, which is on schedule to raise more than $50 million this year, hinges on the Country Cares for St. Jude Kids radiothon. In 1989, just two years before his death, Danny Thomas asked Randy Owen, lead singer of the band Alabama, to help fundraise for the organization in the country music industry. Owen reached out to country radio personalities and executives, and they determined that the best solution would be to hold celebrity-fueled radiothons.
Nineteen years later, Country Cares is a network of country music radio stations that hold radiothons throughout the year for the institution. The program gives ALSAC/St. Jude free use of the stations’ airwaves for two days to present patient stories, first-hand phone interviews with patients, and celebrity endorsers talking about their experiences visiting the hospital and what it has meant to the many people that they’ve met while traveling around the country.
On television, stars such as Williams, Parker, Banderas, Romano, Jennifer Aniston, Bernie Mac, Jimmy Smits and others joined Marlo Thomas and 42 of ALSAC/St. Jude’s corporate and retail partners, including Target, Domino’s Pizza, Williams Sonoma and CVS, for the Thanks and Giving campaign. Created in 2004, the late-fall campaign features celebrities and St. Jude patients in media spots talking about the hospital, its patients and the illnesses it treats, and ends with Marlo urging the public to shop at stores that display Thanks and Giving signage where consumers may add a donation at checkout or purchase a specialty item to benefit St. Jude.