St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital 262 Danny Thomas Place Memphis, TN 38105
News Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 16, 2009
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Melanie Burliss Director of Public Relations 9782739935 firstname.lastname@example.org
Parents of former St. Jude patient “clown around” Neil and Jenna Smith never thought they would smile again, let alone be making other people smile. When their 8-year-old son, Jacob, died in 2007 due to acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), their world collapsed. However, they vowed to continue to brighten the days of patients of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, just like the hospital had done for their son. Jacob Smith was diagnosed with ALL at age 4; he wasn’t supposed to live past his fifth birthday, but with the love and care of St. Jude, Jacob lived well past that. “Jacob was always laughing, we think that’s why he lived longer than he was diagnosed,” his father says. Years after Jacob’s death, laughter still echoes through the halls of St. Jude. Neil and Jenna spread laughter by dressing as clowns and performing for patients, in hopes that the laughter will lead to a longer life for the patients and perhaps even help contribute to their cure. The 78 in-patients at St. Jude love to get visits from Neil and Jenna. Neil’s red, curly wig bounces with each step he takes and with each jovial laugh, while Jenna trips over her oversized shoes. They are nothing less than a spectacle walking through the halls. “I love it when they visit me in my room,” 6-year-old Tommy Jones says. “My favorite thing is when they make me balloon animals.”
-MOREThe Smith’s other talents include playing music with their portable keyboard, telling knock-knock jokes and even playing peek-a-boo with the young patients. The Smiths try to visit the hospital three times a week. On each occasion they visit around 26 patients, this means that the Smiths visit every St. Jude patient at least once a week. “It’s just something we love to do,” Jenna says. “We do it because we want to make them smile at least once during their grueling day of treatment. It takes their mind off whatever they’re going through.” The doctors and nurses call Neil and Jenna the “Clown Angels,” because, according to the staff, they are sent from heaven to make people smile. “We are very grateful that Neil and Jenna visit the hospital as often as they do,” says Janice Keen, a nurse on the fifth floor of the cancer ward. “We can’t help but smile when we see them.” Neil and Jenna will continue to make their visits to St. Jude as long as they are able. “We do it in memory of our son,” Neil explains. “Without St. Jude, he wouldn’t have been with us as long as he was. This is our way of giving back to the hospital.” Those interested in volunteering or donating to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital may visit the St. Jude website at www.stjude.org.
About St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Located in Memphis, Tenn., St. Jude is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization dedicated to improving and saving the lives of children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Care and treatment is of no cost if the patient’s insurance does not cover it and no patient is ever turned away due to an inability to pay. St. Jude is internationally known for its breakthroughs in
childhood cancer research and beyond. The staff is dedicated to contributing to the mission of the founder, Danny Thomas, to find cures and save children.