Today, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital® National Outreach Director, Marlo Thomas, was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, during a special ceremony at the White House. With Ms. Thomas as its envoy to millions of supporters, St. Jude has become the global resource leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is bestowed upon individuals who have made significant contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. In its release about the 2014 Medal of Freedom recipients, the White House wrote of Ms. Thomas: "For giving voice to the less fortunate, breaking barriers by portraying television's first single working woman on That Girl, teaching children to be Free to Be...You and Me," and for her tireless efforts on behalf of the children of St Jude Children's Research Hospital, "Thomas inspires us all to dream bigger and reach higher."
An award-winning actress, producer, best-selling author and social activist, Ms. Thomas has worked tirelessly for St. Jude to raise awareness and funds for the research and treatment of childhood cancer. She has appeared in public service announcements, on national television programs and at hundreds of fundraising events across the country to advance St. Jude's mission. Along with siblings Terre and Tony Thomas, she created St. Jude Thanks and Giving® – a national campaign that encourages holiday shoppers to support the lifesaving work of St. Jude. Over the past decade, it has raised more than $487 million.
"I can't help but think of my immigrant grandparents, and how proud they would be of their granddaughter receiving this wonderful recognition from the President of the country they so dearly loved," said Marlo Thomas. "And so I humbly accept this honor in their name, and in the spirit of the American dream."
Last week, the Marlo Thomas Center for Global Education and Collaboration was unveiled and opened on the St. Jude campus. The new Marlo Thomas Center, which sits atop the world's first and only proton therapy center dedicated solely to the treatment of children, will enable doctors and scientists at St. Jude and around the world to share their knowledge and collaborate on treatments and cures.
The Center also will become the hub for the St. Jude International Outreach Program, which aims to improve childhood cancer survival rates worldwide through 25 official partner sites in 17 countries. It also will support the training and education of St. Jude's postdoctoral and graduate fellows on their way to becoming tomorrow's scientific and medical leaders.
"Marlo Thomas has devoted much of her life to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the fight against childhood cancer," said Richard Shadyac, Jr., President and CEO, ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude. "She has worked tirelessly to further her father's dream that 'no child die in the dawn of life,' while creating her own incredible legacy as a champion of the children and women of the world. The awareness and funds Ms. Thomas has raised ensure that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. She is truly deserving of the nation's highest civilian honor."
Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since it opened 50 years ago, and St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to 90 percent in the next decade. St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children.
"Marlo Thomas, through her passion for our mission, her compassion for the patients of St. Jude, and her incredible energy and drive to make a difference, has built a legacy of work in raising awareness that has directly improved the outcome for thousands of children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases worldwide," said James R. Downing, M.D., St. Jude president and chief executive officer.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital