Making Your Travels Count For The Kids At St. Jude

Travel can open your eyes to the world in so many ways. Last week I met a little boy suffering from a rare eye cancer who opened mine a little more…

During the first week of Sept., which marks National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month I had the privilege to join a group of 12 travel bloggers Expedia invited to visit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. The visit was to kick-off a fund raising campaign by Expedia that’s aimed at making your travels count more while supporting St. Jude. I wish I could say my trip to St. Jude would have been my first experience in seeing cancer. Knowing what it can do. The impact it has on a family. But it’s not. I lost my dad to cancer. My aunt. Family friends. I’m now watching a friend fight breast cancer. Another holding onto every second she has left with her little girl, Phoebe who’s losing her battle with AT/RT, a rare brain cancer. Cancer has touched my life too often, which is why I felt the need to go and see St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. And I must say, the visit to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital turned out to be one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever visited…and I’ve been to some pretty amazing places.

Being let in on people’s lives, their passion for healing, and their journey to St. Jude were both humbling and inspiring. And selfishly, made me even more grateful for my kids health but knowing if the tides turn there’s a place like St. Jude.

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St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital opened in 1962 by the late entertainer Danny Thomas, after a prayer and promise he made to the patron saint of hopeless causes, St. Jude. If St. Jude could help him, he’d build a shrine in his honer. His prayers were answered the next day. That “shrine” Danny Thomas built is dedicated to finding cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Since it opened its doors St. Jude has helped push overall survival rates for childhood cancers from less than 20 percent to 80 percent. No family ever pays St. Jude for anything; the daily operating cost for St. Jude is $1.8 million, which is primarily covered by public contributions.

Having a Little Fun at St. Jude

Three-years-old and full of life, my new little friend, Brayden, played catch and jumped from one tiled star on the floor to the next as he announced the color of each new star. “The doctors say he can’t see anything,” his mother told me. “I guess he’s psychic,” she said with a smile.

I had the honor of chatting with Misty, Brayden’s mom and many other families at a party Expedia hosted for families living at Target House, a facility where families with children needing long term treatment at St. Jude can live – AT NO COST. It was here I learned when Brayden was only seven months old he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer that created three large tumors in his left eye and two in his right. As he laughed and tackled a balloon she shared more of the story that lead them to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Brayden’s treatments, which have ALL been paid for by St. Jude so they can focus on Brayden. And when I say ALL, I mean ALL patients at St. Jude have ALL of their treatments covered – everything like chemo (one day of chemo costs $1,474) to radiation ($104,000) to living expenses and any and all things in-between.

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Elaine Schoch and Maria Colaco from TheNewYorkMom.com with Brayden at the Expedia Around The World Party at Target House.

It’s stories like Brayden’s – and the 7,800 families St. Jude treats every year – that have made St. Jude one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever visited. And your support will help St. Jude support kids like Brayden and help its researchers find a cure for AT/RT. Unfortunately, for Phoebe – and so many others – that cure will come too late. She’ll be going “home” soon, but not in the way her family had hoped, at least not at the age of four. Although, St. Jude, the patron saint for lost and hopeless causes is known for making miracles happen…

How to make your travels count for kids at St. Jude

Expedia has created several ways for travelers to lend its support this month during National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Throughout the month of Sept., you can visit http://stjude.expedia.com/ to enter more than 150 giveaway sweepstakes to win an amazing travel package. Each entry comes with a suggested donation of five dollars, 100 percent of which goes directly to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. You can select as many trip options as you like, with the ability to enter each giveaway once a day for the entire month of September. The options include:

  • Bali, Indonesia: Five nights at the stunning Conrad Bali in a Deluxe Garden Room including breakfast, a couples massage and a $500 Visa gift card.
  • Vegas Dream Trip: Three nights at the chic Aria Resort & Casino, two tickets to Cirque du Soleil‘s Zarkana, a $200 F&B credit to any MGM resort restaurant, a Rockstar Club Crawl, 2.5 hour Vegas Sights & Lights Limo Tour, a flight on Maverick’s ECO-Star helicopter and three pairs of tickets to Vegas on Spirit Airlines.
  • Maui, Hawaii: Four nights at the seaside Fairmont Kea Lani and a sunset catamaran cruise plus snorkel or eco-adventure to Molokini with Pacific Whale Foundation Eco-Adventures.
  • Marrakech, Morocco: Four nights in a palatial Pavilion room at the Four Seasons Marrakech, including breakfast and a couples spa experience.
  • Montana Outdoor Adventure: Four nights in a spacious Big Sky, Montana, Moonlight Mountain Homes luxury cabin and a $1000 Expedia gift card towards air fare or car rental.

Beyond the dream trip giveaways, there are several different ways you can join this campaign and help support the amazing work St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is doing.

  • Donate directly to St. Jude to get a hotel coupon. Consumers who donate $25 to St. Jude on this site may choose either a 10 percent off coupon good for select hotels on Expedia.com or a 20 percent off coupon good for select hotels via the Expedia mobile app. To get the coupon and donate to St. Jude, click here.
  • Donate your rewards. Expedia Rewards points can be turned into a monetary donation to St. Jude as well. Expedia Rewards points-holders who wish to participate can do so here.

And, if it’s after September or if you just want to donate directly to St. Jude, you can do that too.

Check out what everyone is doing online regarding this cause – #expediastjude.

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