There are certain life experiences that you just cannot encapsulate into words or even begin to describe how they have moved or changed your life because there’s nothing that will do justice to what they made you feel. This is the case of my recent St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Blogger Tour that I along with 12 other influencers received. I was honored to be given the opportunity to tour their magical facility, meet with staff and most of all interact with their beautiful and loving patients. AVivirLA will be sharing future posts of my long-term collaboration with them and how everyone can give back to this amazing organization.

The 3-day event in Memphis, TN was an eye-opening experience to learn so much of the history that lives there and the background behind the hospital. On our first day we had BBQ at a famous restaurant called Central BBQ and visited the National Civil Rights Museum and Lorraine Motel, which is where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

The National Civil Rights Museum is a complex of museums and historic buildings in Memphis, Tennessee; its exhibits trace the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the 17th century to the present. This was a sneak peek into the history and journey of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

On our second day we heard from the hospital’s staff and received a tour of the hospital along with some of their on-site housing for families. We also had lunch at St. Jude Kay Kafe, which from the beginning, St. Jude Founder Danny Thomas wanted everyone at the hospital – doctors, nurses, patients and staff – to share meals in the same room. In 2006, Kay Jewelers donated $16 million to create Kay Kafe at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

During the tour we heard from former cancer survivors and patients of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Joel and Tayde who have now become a full-time employees of the hospital. Their stories were very inspiring.

After our tour we were able to visit the gift shop and purchase goodies to bring home.

We then heard from Dr. Jason Schwartz, Dr. Kira Ness and a St. Jude patient as they each shared their personal St. Jude Journey. That same evening we were greeted by St. Jude Food Services and learned how their unique culinary approach ensures that patients have the best food. Chef Michael Vetro provided an overview of the services, St. Jude Garden, and a cooking activity – making natural green juices (an AVivirLA favorite).

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A volunteer experience and probably the most rewarding treat was being able to serve food to patient families at Tri-Delta Place, which is where some families live for a period of up to 3 months.

The next day we heard of different ways that we could get involved and how we could start giving back to the hospital. I couldn’t hold back and when I learned about the St. Jude Marathon I was all for it. I could not think of a better way to give back to find a cure for cancer than becoming a St. Jude Hero and running the full marathon in Memphis, TN in December 2016. I am doing it for the beautiful children and their smiles that impacted me during my visit to the hospital. You can support my cause and help me in raising funds for the children here.

That same day and before our departure we also had the opportunity to visit Target House, which is where families stay for a longer period of time while their child receives all of the medical attention they need from the health professionals at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

St. Jude Target House is the hospital’s long-term housing facility for families staying more than 90 days. Opened in 1999, St. Jude Target House is an integral part of the domiciliary care program of St. Jude. It is an innovative facility located near St. Jude that gives patients and families a home-away-from-home while undergoing treatment. There is no cost to families staying at St. Jude Target House.

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I enjoyed learning so much about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, but the most important takeaway was 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. To donate so that a cure for cancer is found and so that more children are treated, click here.

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