Granite Staters active in St. Jude’s Fitness for a Cure fundraiser

Staff Report March 18. 2014 5:48PM

LOWELL, Mass. — The 15th annual Fitness for a Cure to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, which provides medical care free of charge for children facing life-threatening diseases, opens Saturday with a family show featuring a fitness performance team followed by an evening gala.

The event began in 1999 when St. Jude supporter Sherri Sarrouf decided to host an evening event to raise money for and awareness of the research hospital founded in 1962 by entertainer Danny Thomas.

She put together a team of fitness professionals and dance performers, believing those strong in mind and body should give back to the sick and less fortunate. Since then, Fitness for a Cure has raised more than $2.4 million for the kids of St. Jude.

Larry J. Thibodeau of Flexecution in Manchester, N.H., prime sponsor of this year’s event, is hoping to expand the event and attendance to New Hampshire and its residents.

Thibodeau became involved in the fundraiser when the 8-year-old son of a close friend was diagnosed with Stage 3 kidney cancer. He is alive today, Thibodeau said, because of St. Jude’s.

Thibodeau hopes this year’s event will raise $500,000 to $150,000 over last year’s and the year’s before.

“Nothing wrong with setting a high expectation” even if you fall short, he said.

Family event

The evening gala that draws 700 people is sold out, but tickets are still available for the family portion of the event, which starts at 11:30 a.m. at Lowell Memorial Auditorium, and features the St. Jude Performance Team. The team consists of 15 adults and 100 kids, 15 of them from New Hampshire, including Thibodeau’s two children.

It will be an afternoon of kid-oriented fun with live music, face painting and more.

Doors open at 11 a.m. for the show, which begins at 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults and $15 for children

Thibodeau said when St. Jude’s opened in 1962, the cure rate for childhood leukemia was less than 20 percent. Today, thanks to the hospital’s research, it is 80 percent, he said.

Joseph T. O’Connor, CPA of Melanson Heath & Co., P.C. of Nashua, which along with the Red Arrow Diners of Manchester, are the other two New Hampshire companies sponsoring the event, said much of St. Jude’s research is shared with local hospitals, including Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.

He said what impressed him most about the fundraiser is that it features kids, as young as 6 or 7 up through high school, who are working hard to raise funds to help other children.

“These kids get it,” he said. “They give up their time to raise money for others.”

Danny Thomas’ legacy

The hospital was Danny Thomas’ dream. According to the Fitness for a Cure website, Thomas’ prayer to St. Jude Thaddeus was, “Show me my way in life and I will build you a shrine.”

As he became successful, he decided that shrine would be a research facility and a place of compassion that would treat children regardless of race, color, creed or their family’s ability to pay.

Thomas’ dream became a reality when St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital opened Feb. 4, 1962.

“It took a rabble-rousing, hook-nosed comedian to get your attention, but it took your hearts and your loving minds and your generous souls to make this fabulous dream come true... . If I were to die this minute, I would know why I was born,” Thomas said at the opening.

More than 50 years later, St. Jude has become the world’s premier pediatric research institution.

Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food because the non-profit group believes all a family should worry about is helping their child live.

HealthHuman InterestManchesterNashua

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