Actress, Producer, Social Activist Marlo Thomas Honored with ASCO Partners in Progress Award
|Marlo Thomas, as national outreach director for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is dedicated to raising awareness of pediatric cancer.
Marlo Thomas, national outreach director of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, has made it her mission to increase awareness and funding for pediatric cancer research and to decrease the number of children who are lost to cancer in the dawn of their lives.
In recognition of her dedication to influence public awareness of pediatric cancer, ASCO is proud to present Ms. Thomas with its 2012 Partners in Progress Award. Since the 1990s, Ms. Thomas has been involved in pediatric cancer patient advocacy and fundraising. The eldest child of founder Danny Thomas, Ms. Thomas travels throughout the United States sharing the mission of St. Jude and gaining support of corporate sponsors, and she is the driving force behind countless public awareness efforts that educate communities about the work being done at St. Jude. Her directmail campaigns and television specials have reached millions of people. Her ingenuity led her to create, with her sister Terre and brother Tony, the annual St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign in 2004, a national program that encourages holiday shoppers to “Give thanks for the healthy kids in your life and to give to those who are not.”
Establishing her career as an award-winning actress and author, Ms. Thomas has been a role model for women and children since she starred as television’s first single woman living alone in the hit series That Girl. She has produced numerous inspirational projects, such as the best-selling television specials, books, and records “Free to Be…You and Me” and “Free to Be…A Family.” She is the author of six New York Times best sellers including The Right Words at the Right Time, as well as of The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2: Your Turn!, Thanks and Giving: All Year Long, and her memoir Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny.
“My siblings and I came to our commitment to St. Jude each in our own way,” Ms. Thomas said in an interview with ASCO Daily News. “For me, the position of National Outreach Director seemed natural because of my access to the media; I knew this was where I could be the most helpful. Raising awareness is important, because it lets moms and dads everywhere know that there is a place to go when they receive the scariest news of their lives: that their child has a life-threatening disease.”
Fifty Years of Hope
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was founded by Danny Thomas in 1962. It had long been his vision to create a place of hope for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. He created a hospital focused on research and treatment of these illnesses. Mr. Thomas made a promise when he opened St. Jude that no family would pay for anything, which means that St. Jude absorbs the costs for all treatment-related costs including therapies, travel, food, and housing for the duration of the child’s treatment. Fifty years later, St. Jude continues to keep this promise and to be one of the most infl uential pediatric research and treatment centers in the country.
According to St. Jude, when it first opened its doors in 1962, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was 4%. Today, in large part because of the work of St. Jude, the survival rate for children with ALL is 94%. In addition to the tremendous progress in ALL treatment, the development of protocols by St. Jude has increased overall survival rates for all childhood cancers to 80%; collective overall survival was less than 20% 50 years ago. St. Jude is committed not only to helping the children who are diagnosed today, but to understanding the source of what makes those children sick and, in turn, allowing that research to benefi t the children who will be diagnosed tomorrow.
“I remember one day I was in the medicine room at St. Jude and a 6-year-old boy stood up on his chair and yelled out, ‘Mommy, I don’t have cancer anymore!’” Ms. Thomas stated. “He said it with such joy and pride. It was a defining moment for me. It was as if everything we fight for all year long, year after year, was crystallized in that beautiful child’s moment of triumph. That’s all we need to hear. That’s all we want to hear. That’s all we need to keep going.”