The Mission Continues

February 7, 1991

God and Danny Thomas. That’s who Meredith Cheek — a 7-year-old patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — credits with keeping her alive.

Thomas, who died Wednesday, founded the research hospital that has been an international leader in treating the very cancer she is battling — acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL).

The treatment of ALL is St. Jude’s greatest success story. When the hospital opened in 1962, only 4 percent of patients with the disease survived. In 1971, St. Jude published research showing the long-term survival rate had improved to nearly 50 percent. And last month another St. Jude research team outlined a treatment that has pushed the ALL cure rate to 73 percent.

— From reporter Mary Powers’ obituary of entertainer Danny Thomas.

Looking back: "I will never forget the long line of people gathered outside the ALSAC/Danny Thomas Pavilion, winding out of the gates of the campus and into the community — people from all walks of life solemnly waiting to pay their respects to Danny as he lay in state inside," said ALSAC President and CEO Rick Shadyac. "It was quite moving and triggered boyhood memories of this famous man who had stayed in my home and walked my brother and me to church. Danny touched the hearts and lives of so many people. You might see him behind the counter at the cafeteria visiting with the servers, eating a bologna sandwich, or hugging a distraught parent, or stopping to spend time with a child having a tough day. He always made time for everybody...and that long line of mourners on that somber day symbolized one of Danny’s core beliefs: that St. Jude was a place of inclusion where all people would be welcomed and treated with respect and dignity, regardless of race, religion or ability to pay."

Employees hang a wreath over the entrance of the hospital.