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St. Jude family to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with stories of hope, resilience

St. Jude family to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with stories of hope, resilience

St. Jude celebrity supporters, patients, St. Jude Heroes, content creators and more reflect on silver linings from past year

PR Newswire

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Sept. 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- In observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, communities can embrace the globe-spanning mission that makes St. Jude Children's Research Hospital® extraordinary through the stories of St. Jude supporters and patients like Ramón, Victoria, Sebastian and Mayela. Now available on St. Jude Inspire, their stories illustrate hope and resilience while also honoring their Hispanic heritage.

From the moment St. Jude Children's Research Hospital opened its doors nearly 60 years ago, it has welcomed children from around the world with cancer and other life-threatening diseases, regardless of ethnicity, religion or their family's ability to pay. The inclusive environment created at St. Jude honors cultural differences and fosters strong connections among employees, patients and supporters, reminding us that they belong to one St. Jude family that is stronger together.

"The Hispanic community includes some of the most active and engaged supporters for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital who embrace this mission and give with their whole hearts to St. Jude," said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., President and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. "Because of generous donors, St. Jude is able to help kids worldwide and the need for support continues to grow as St. Jude embarks on a new six-year, $11.5 billion strategic expansion plan to accelerate groundbreaking research and treatment that will lead to more lives saved. We cherish our St. Jude family and are bonded together with love and optimism to help ensure our mission continues until there is a cure for childhood cancer."

Ramón: From Jalisco to Memphis to Los Angeles

Ramón, 27, was just 6 years old when he arrived at St. Jude with his mother, far from the only home he ever knew in Jalisco, Mexico. Following a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Ramón needed three years of chemotherapy. In addition to that treatment, Ramón also learned English from St. Jude teachers. Soon, his father and sister would join Ramón and his mother in Memphis, Tennessee, so the family could be together.

Ramón stayed in the United States and went on to graduate from University of California, Los Angeles. Now working at the Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, Ramón stays connected to St. Jude in several ways, including the St. Jude PLAY LIVE program, which involves gaming for a purpose.

Victoria: Teen artist paints with color, heart

Victoria, a talented Cuban-American teen artist from Florida came to St. Jude for treatment at age 8 for a brain tumor. After multiple surgeries, Victoria received 30 days of specialized radiation treatment at St. Jude, which is home to the world's first proton beam therapy center dedicated solely for children.

Victoria's artwork graces the "Dreamscape" installation of a cruise ship thanks to St. Jude partner Carnival and was seen on TaylorMade golf bags used by professional golfers at the 2020 World Golf Championships-FedEx-St. Jude Invitational.

Most meaningful, though, has been her collaboration with South Florida artist Alex Mijares on the T-shirts for Team Victoria, the St. Jude Walk/Run team bearing her name. Now in its sixth year, Team Victoria has expanded to multiple cities across Florida, raising more than $200,000 for St. Jude along the way.

Sebastian: Scoring big on, off the field

Sebastian from Colombia came to St. Jude as a child in 2014 after headaches revealed a tumor. A brain cancer diagnosis almost sidelined Sebastian's dream of becoming a soccer star but the adventurous, cheerful boy rallied back after receiving treatment at St. Jude, and as promised, his parents enrolled him in soccer once he finished treatment. Sebastian received the Iron Man award from his soccer team in recognition of his relentless effort and passion on the field. Now 13 and cancer-free, Sebastian wants to go to school to become a mechanical engineer.

Mayela: Personality plus keeps family's spirits high 

Mayela began her treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer, at home in Puerto Rico. She was later referred to St. Jude where she underwent a bone marrow transplant with her father serving as her donor. Mayela can best be described as a mini mogul in the making—she even has a YouTube channel. This feisty grade schooler loves to dance, talk and create videos, letting her audience know that her bone marrow transplant surgery "went great."

Celebrities, St. Jude Heroes® show support in September

Hispanic Heritage Month begins in the middle of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and celebrities including Sofia Vergara, Luis Fonsi, Daisy Fuentes and Laurie Hernandez will show their love for St. Jude on social media and rally fans to support the cause using the hashtag #30DaysForStJude.

Communities everywhere will team up for the virtual St. Jude Walk/Run on Sept. 25. Among the hundreds of teams participating will be Heroes Latinos & Friends, a group of runners across Oregon inspired to join the St. Jude mission – thanks to St. Jude Hero® Matilde Flores. A runner, Flores supports St. Jude in memory of her middle school classmate and friend, Maria, who taught her English when Flores moved from Mexico as a teen. Maria passed away, but her legacy lives on through Flores and others.

In Arizona, where Marcelino Quiñonez helped create the Latino Council of St. Jude, he and others who share in his passion for St. Jude are actively recruiting members for their St. Jude Walk/Run team, ordering shirts that say "Amigos de St. Jude."

The St. Jude family far and wide

The Hispanic Heritage observance began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period. St. Jude patients and supporters connect with their heritage year-round and in multiple ways, whether playing the centuries-old Mexican game of Lotería virtually with friends, celebrating a Thanksgiving full of warmth and magic with a treasured family recipe from Cuban-American chef Adrianne Calvo or sharing family traditions with St. Jude PLAY LIVE content creators Fabian, Daniel and Sanchowest.

For  St. Jude patient Reynaldo of Puerto Rico, celebrating his heritage included participating in a TikTok challenge by dancing to a song by the popular Colombian singer and rapper J Balvin, who gave the teen a special shout-out and words of encouragement.

Perhaps most touching is how a group of dedicated Hispanic women – strangers in real life yet bonded by their decision to make St. Jude part of their legacy after years of monthly donations – have  included St. Jude in their estate plans. St. Jude can continue its lifesaving mission because of the collective strength from devoted donors like them and Hispanic communities everywhere rallying for St. Jude.

Global challenge with a global plan

In April 2021, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital launched a six-year $11.5 billion strategic plan to expand and accelerate critical research into the most deadly forms of childhood cancers — the ones still to be solved despite decades of progress on most types of cancer — while also aggressively expanding work in other key areas including blood disorders, pediatric neurological diseases and infectious diseases. St. Jude also plans to triple its global investment to impact more of the 400,000 kids with cancer around the world each year; kids who rely on the emerging collaboration and investments of St. Jude, the World Health Organization, and a coalition of international partners as their lifeline.

The global work of St. Jude has roots in the Central and South America region when in 1993, the institution established its first international outreach program in El Salvador. This work led to the creation of the St. Jude International Outreach Program, which eventually expanded to become St. Jude Global in 2018. St. Jude Global consists of regional networks around the world that promote self-sufficiency and the sharing of knowledge and skills among international sites to accelerate global advancements in clinical care of children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The regional structures are integrated to form the St. Jude Global Alliance.

St. Jude must raise more than $2 billion each year to meet the bold commitments of its strategic plan. It's the largest financial investment in St. Jude's nearly 60-year history to accelerate research and treatment for kids with catastrophic childhood diseases around the world. It is a multi-trillion dollar, multi-year problem. However, donor support makes it possible to save children together. St. Jude won't stop until no child dies from cancer.

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SOURCE ALSAC/St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

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