During the Saturday night gala at the 50th anniversary celebration of ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®, Tony Thomas, son of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas presented Randy Owen, longtime St. Jude supporter and country music artist, with the Founder’s Award – an honor that Danny only bestowed on very special occasions. “I know if my father was here, he would want Randy to have this award,” Tony said before calling an emotional Owen on stage to accept.
Owen, the lead singer of the legendary country group ALABAMA, helped start the Country Cares for St. Jude Kids® program in 1989 after meeting Danny. The program has become one of the most successful radio fundraising events in the country, garnering more than $310 million in pledges for the hospital.In accepting the award, Owen acknowledged the fans of country music, the men and women of country radio and the country music industry for embracing Danny’s dream. “Danny Thomas was such a special person,” Owen said. “I didn’t have the chance to know him as well as some of you, but it shows you how a good man can inspire you in just a brief time.”
After receiving his award, Owen called his new band to the stage to perform for more than 1,000 volunteers, board members, ALSAC staff and other distinguished guests who were in attendance at the event.“Each year, millions of people in the United States and around the world rally to support Danny’s dream,” said ALSAC CEO John P. Moses. “Many of those volunteers have chosen to support St. Jude because of Randy Owen. He charged the country music industry to support the kids of St. Jude and I am truly grateful to him for that. Because of his generosity and determination, St. Jude has been able to continue its life-saving work.”
The convention also commemorated the life of Danny Thomas, whose vision was to build a research hospital devoted to finding cures for children battling cancer and other catastrophic diseases. In 1957, the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities was formed to raise the money needed to operate and maintain St. Jude, and on Feb. 4, 1962, the hospital opened its doors. Since the hospital opened, advancements have been made in many childhood catastrophic diseases. St. Jude has been instrumental in improving the overall survival rates for childhood cancers from less than 20 percent to more than 70 percent. And, the survival rate for children suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia - the most common form of childhood cancer - has increased from only 4 percent when the hospital opened to 94 percent today. In addition, St. Jude treats patients with HIV infections, as well as patients with hematologic, immunologic or genetic diseases.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas and based in Memphis, Tennessee, St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world. No family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay. St. Jude is financially supported by ALSAC, which was established with a sole purpose of raising the funds needed for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. For more information, please visit www.stjude.org