From the Beginning: The ESA and St. Jude Partnership Story

The love story between Epsilon Sigma Alpha and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® began many years before the adoption of St. Jude as an ESA national philanthropic project in 1972. As we celebrate our 50-year partnership with St. Jude, we look back in admiration and pride on our humble beginnings and this great love story that has been sustained through decades and generations.

In the fall of 1969, the stars aligned at the aptly named “Shower of Stars” event in Florida. There, ESA member and International Council (IC) board member Judy Lester of Indiana and her husband Morton attended in hopes to learn more about the new children’s hospital they had been hearing about.

After the “Shower of Stars” event, Judy and Morton had the chance to meet Danny Thomas, founder of St. Jude. Judy was enthralled with Danny and his passion for the hospital. She, in turn, told him about the organization she belonged to, ESA, and how its members were involved in fundraising and volunteer projects across the country. This piqued Danny’s interest, and he asked to meet with ESA members to share more about St. Jude.

This encounter between Danny and Judy spiraled into a beautiful relationship between Epsilon Sigma Alpha and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®. Shortly after the Florida event, Danny accepted Judy’s invitation to attend the ESA International Council Convention in St. Paul, MN in 1970. There, Danny won over the hearts and imaginations of ESA members with his passion, humor, and deep conviction for the future of his hospital.

The idea of forming an official national partnership with St. Jude did not come to be until early 1971 when ESA leaders came together to organize one large national fundraising event. In 1972, during the International Council mid-year meeting, Judy Lester presented the idea of a cross-country bike ride to the ESA leadership team as a way to strengthen the bond between ESA members and St. Jude. It was during that meeting that the bike ride was approved, and ESA endorsed St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® as a national project.

That bike ride was later coined The Million Dollar Bike Ride, and put ESA on course to become one of the hospital's largest donors of the time, committing to donate one million dollars to St. Jude through a series of bike ride events. In 1975, ESA presented their final check to Danny, not only fulfilling their one million dollar promise but having lit a fire of passion for St. Jude throughout ESA that has lasted for 50 years.

As ESA members celebrate our 50-year partnership with St. Jude throughout 2022, we must recognize all those who paved the way. Judy Lester, Marilyn Knuth, the Thomas family, the Maloof family, and all ESA members who have been “proud beggars” for St. Jude since Danny’s first plea in 1970.

Written by Matthew Frazier
Posted: 8/31/2022 10:49:49 AM by Mackeigan Mackeigan | with 0 comments

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