EMILY TICKLE THOMAS interviewed by Melanie Crownover
Tupelo High School and Ole Miss alumna Emily Tickle Thomas moved to the Memphis area in 1993, but she still makes a difference in north Mississippi and beyond with The Cancer Card Xchange, an organization that gives gift cards to people who have cancer.
Q: Where did you get the idea for the exchange? A: In 2007, I was diagnosed with oral cancer while pregnant with my fourth son and referred to MD Anderson in Texas for treatment. The first time my husband and I went, we were there for two weeks. Some of our friends arranged a gift card at a restaurant for us to just go out and eat. It meant more than they knew.
Q: How did it actually get started? A: A couple of years later, a good friend was sick with cancer, and he and his wife couldn’t work, so we collected gift cards online from friends and family. Word got out, and we ended up raising a couple thousand dollars in gift cards. I started thinking maybe this is something we should do for others. On my 40th birthday in 2011, I told everyone to bring gift cards to my party instead of gifts so that I could give them to people with cancer. That was it.
Q: Has it been successful? A: It’s grown beyond anything I ever dreamed. Since 2011, we’ve given more than $250,000 in gift cards to 2,740 people across the country.
Q: How does it work? A: Cancercardxchange.org
is the portal for everything. Anyone can donate gift cards or make monetary donations there, or refer patients and their families to us. [People] can list special needs like money for groceries or gas so we can get them the right cards.
Q: Is the holiday season a busy time of year? A: It’s one of the best times. We love a regift here. If you get a gift card you know you won’t use, send it to us, and we’ll put it to good use. Any donation we get is usually in somebody’s hand that needs it within a couple of weeks.
144 INVITATION | December 2017 / January 2018