When Owen goes to see his doctor for his yearly visit, he loves telling him jokes. One of his favorites is, “What kind of cheese is not yours? Nacho cheese!”
His visits weren’t always so lighthearted. In November 2009, when Owen was just 4 years old, his parents – Kelly and Brian – received devastating news. Their little boy had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer.
“It was all a huge shock to get the news,” Kelly remembers. “I wasn’t very knowledgeable about what it was going to mean to our family.” She admits she thought the worst. “Immediately my thoughts went to, ‘he’s gone, we’re losing him.’”
Fortunately, the Arkansas family was referred to the legendary St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® (St. Jude) in Memphis where Owen underwent a grueling – but successful – two-and-a-half years of treatment.
St. Jude Among Top Childhood Cancer Hospitals
St. Jude has the best survival rates for some of the most aggressive forms of childhood cancer, including the ALL that affected Owen.
About 98 percent of children with ALL go into remission within weeks of starting treatment, and 90 percent of all those will be cured (patients are considered to be cured after 10 years in remission). The numbers are even more positive for children who receive treatment at St. Jude, which has a 94-percent survival rate – the best in the world.
But these positive figures were no help to little Owen, who did not understand why he was so far from home. “I didn’t know what was going on, so I felt really scared,” he recalls.
Luckily, that feeling did not last long. “When I went to St. Jude, I felt at home with all the fun activities,” he remembers. “When the nurses and doctors were there to calm me down and stuff, I felt fine.”
Thanks to the care and treatment at St. Jude, Owen refused to let anything get in the way of being a regular kid in a large and loving family. He stayed active, running around with his two older sisters and younger brother, and, amazingly, even found the strength to play soccer.
“They have a phrase, ‘keep hope,’” he says, recalling what kept him going. “I had hope that I would feel better and they had hope in me.”
For more than 50 years, St. Jude has been bringing hope to the lives of kids affected by cancer. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped to push its overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent. St. Jude is working to drive that survival rate to 90 percent; St. Jude won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
Kay Jewelers Funds Childhood Cancer Research and Care
While the hospital’s treatment and research is outstanding, St. Jude is also known for quite literally lifting the burden from parents’ shoulders. With the help of generous donors – such as Kay Jewelers – patients are treated for free. This means their families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food, allowing them to focus wholeheartedly on the most important thing in the world – getting their child better.
Kay’s relationship with the hospital goes back more than 17 years. In 1999, the company was looking for a way to give back to the communities in which it operates across the country. Inspired by the courage of the kids of St. Jude, Kay embarked on its partnership in caring with the hospital.
To date, Kay (operated by Signet Jewelers, the world’s largest retailer of diamond jewelry) has donated more than $60 million to St. Jude and has committed to raising more than $90 million, ensuring that kids like Owen get the treatment they need.
Funds from Kay Jewelers have been used all over the hospital – and beyond – including the second floor in-patient care center, patient registration area, the Solid Tumor Clinic, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital-Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project and the Kay Kafe, St. Jude’s sole cafeteria, where patients, families, physicians and scientists gather at mealtimes, continuing the vision of hospital founder Danny Thomas that everyone should eat together under one roof, as one family.
Kay Jewelers newest project is a $50 million commitment for a new six-story tower at the heart of the St. Jude campus. The Kay® Research & Care Center will help usher in a new era of research, education, collaboration, care and treatment for the kids at St. Jude.
Purchases at Kay Jewelers Help Support Cancer Hospital
To help fund its donations, Kay holds year-round programs to spread awareness of the company’s mission and to create opportunities for its customers to participate in fundraising efforts.
“Through the many years of helping raise awareness and funds, our Team Members continue to let us know that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the number one company program about which they feel the most pride,” says Seb Hobbs, President & Chief Customer Officer.
Each year, the company also sells plush puppies and bears to benefit the hospital’s annual St. Jude Thanks and Giving® campaign. The campaign, which was created by Marlo, Terre and Tony Thomas, the children of Danny Thomas, has raised more than $693 million since it began in 2004.
Last year, Owen joined Marlo Thomas in a video for the campaign and appeared with her on NBC’s TODAY show, which features stories of St. Jude daily throughout Thanksgiving week and helps to bring more attention to the amazing work of the hospital.
These days, Owen is an active fifth grader who doesn’t let anything hold him back. He loves basketball, running and is still passionate about soccer. He participates in 5k races and kids’ triathlons, and there’s still always time for goofing around with his siblings.
Thanks to the treatment he received at St. Jude, Owen’s prognosis is good. “Everything positive in Owen’s life is because of the ground-breaking research done by St. Jude,” says his mom thankfully.