By Charlie Sacchetti
I was watching TV, just a little while ago, when the commercial came on. It was a new one for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. This charity has always been dear to me because of the way it began and how it has evolved. When I was kid, I used to love to watch “Make Room for Daddy.” Danny Thomas was the star and he played the part of the dad in a way that was wholesome and realistic. Being only a young kid, in the 1950s, I didn’t know Danny’s life story. Later in life, I became aware of what he did and why he did it.
As a struggling entertainer in the ’40s, Muzyad Amos Yakhoob had already changed his name to Amos Jacobs when his first of three children arrived. Amos wasn’t doing too well, barely making enough money to take care of his family. He had met a stage hand who was a true believer in St. Jude, who Catholics believe is the patron saint of “hopeless causes.” The man had prayed to him and was miraculously cured of cancer. By now, Amos considered himself a hopeless case and was overwhelmed by the man’s story. He began praying to St. Jude and promised that if the saint would help him become successful, he would do something very big in the name of St. Jude. Shortly afterwards, Amos again changed his name. This time it would be Danny Thomas. His career took off, the TV show happened and Danny was a success. He honored his promise to St. Jude in 1962, when he opened the hospital. For all of these years, this cancer research hospital for kids has been operating and is unique. No patients ever receive a bill, even though it costs more than 2 million dollars a day to operate. It has a cure rate of 80 percent. It is truly a wonderful charity to support.
So, as I watched the commercial, and saw all of the beautiful kids that were a part of it, I noticed the offer of a T-tee shirt to be given to any new “partner” who agreed to support the hospital on a monthly basis. I have been one of these people for long time and I admire the research hospital so much that I would be honored to wear the shirt that says “St. Jude Saves Lives.” Now please believe me, the last thing I need is another T-shirt. Thankfully, I have arrived at the stage of life where dress shirts and ties are not required on a regular basis, so my wardrobe of choice includes sweatshirts, T-shirts, sweaters and jeans in the winter and shorts during every other season. However, this is a shirt I wanted, so I placed the call.
A nice young man named Mike answered the phone. I explained that I was a longtime supporter and had just seen the new commercial. I explained that I wanted to know how I could get a T- shirt and was willing to pay for the privilege. He said he wanted to take a look at my account to verify my address so he could send the shirt to me. I really wasn’t sure how long I have been a supporter, so I asked Mike to look it up and let me know. To my surprise, I had been donating since 1985! I was amazed at how the time has flown by but then I had a twinge in my lower back and was quickly reminded that I am little “long in the tooth,” so to speak. All of a sudden the fact that almost 35 years had gone by, since I first became a “partner” wasn’t that amazing anymore!
While Mike was looking up my file in his computer, I asked him if he was in Memphis. He said no, he was in Pennsylvania. Naturally I said, “That’s where I grew up, in Philly, where are you?” He said he was in Erie. Coincidentally, back in 1965, I played in an American Legion Baseball East West All Star game in Erie. The players were housed at Gannon College. I related this to him and told him that even though the game was played in August, I almost froze that day as the wind was blowing off of Lake Erie right onto the ballfield. He laughed and said he wasn’t surprised. When we got back to business, Mike told me that since I had been a partner for all of these years, he was going to send me a T-shirt, free of charge. After protesting mildly, I thought that it would be OK to accept this gift with the intended goodwill. I shall wear it proudly.
May Danny rest in peace and may he forever be remembered for his promise well kept.
Charlie Sacchetti is the author of two books, “It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change,” and “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org