More than 50 years ago, Danny Thomas, then a struggling young entertainer of Lebanese descent with $7 in his pocket, knelt in a
Detroit church before a statue of St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes.
Thomas asked the saint to “show me my way in life.”
His prayer was answered, and soon he moved his family to Chicago to pursue career offers.
A few years later, at another turning point in his life, Thomas again prayed to
St. Jude and pledged to someday build a shrine to the saint.
Throughout the next years, Thomas’ career prospered through films and television, and he became a nationally known entertainer.
He remembered his pledge to build a shrine to St. Jude.
In the early 1950s, Thomas began discussing with friends what concrete form his vow might take. Gradually, the idea of a
children’s hospital, possibly in Memphis, took shape. In 1955, Thomas and a group of Memphis businessmen who had agreed to help
support his dream seized on the idea of creating a unique research hospital devoted to curing catastrophic diseases in children.
More than just a treatment facility, this would be a research center for the children of the world.
Thomas had started raising money for his vision of St. Jude in the early 1950s. By 1955, the local business leaders who
had joined his cause began area fundraising efforts, supplementing Thomas’ benefit shows that brought scores of major
entertainment stars to Memphis. Often accompanied by his wife, Rose Marie, Thomas crisscrossed the United States by car talking
about his dream and raising funds at meetings and benefits. The pace was so hectic that Thomas and his wife once visited 28
cities in 32 days. Although Thomas and his friends raised the money to build the hospital, they now faced the daunting task
of funding its annual operation.
To solve this problem, Thomas turned to his fellow Americans of Arabic-speaking heritage. Believing deeply that Arabic-speaking
Americans should, as a group, thank the United States for the gifts of freedom given to their parents, Thomas also felt that
building a children research hospital would be a noble way of honoring his immigrant forefathers who had come to America.
Thomas' request struck a responsive chord. In 1957, 100 representatives of the Arab-American community met in Chicago to form
ALSAC—the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities—with the sole purpose of raising funds for the support of St.
Jude Children’s Research Hospital.