In 1991 a small team in Peoria started the St. Jude. Benefit to donate in the name of a team mate who lost his battle with cancer. The first meet had about 100 gymnasts and they donated all of the proceeds which totaled about $2400.
As of 2010 The St. Jude Benefit meets have raised over 1 million dollars for St. Jude. The meet has now changed hosts and this year was held in Schaumburg Illinois by Ron and Linda Nasti, the owners of GymNasti.
In 1962 when Actor Danny Thomas founded a hospital where no child would be turned away and no child would pay a penny for their cancer treatment, the survival rate for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia or A.L.L. (the most common childhood cancer) was about 6%. Today, 50 years later, the survival rate for a child checking into St. Jude’s with A.L.L. is 94%. That is amazing. St. Jude has made great strides in treating children and supporting their families. And we can proudly say that we are a part of that success.
We all participate in the event, buying tickets, shirts, snacks and raffle tickets all are donation to the cause. Gymfinity’s parents even put together a large gift basket to be donated for a raffle that takes place at the meet. The raffle brings about 25% of the meets income each year. Another interesting fact about this meet is that no one makes a penny off the meet. The meet hosts pay for the venue (this year in the Marriott Renaissance convention center), the judges, awards and operations but never takes a cent of the proceeds for themselves. This selfless act typifies the spirit of the meet. The atmosphere is one of camaraderie and sportsmanship and one of the many reasons we will return every year.
Kids helping kids is the recurring theme of the meet. If you ask someone to donate to a cause they may, but if you can make a cause out of something they love to do, it becomes a crusade. Each year, before every session, they play a short video that juxtaposes the fit athletes doing gymnastics with the children in care, surviving chemotherapy and each doing it all with a smile. My first year at the meet I didn’t know what I was in for. I stood next to a big burly looking coach who told me beforehand that he was going to cry, and if I would be embarrassed that he would understand if I moved away from him. I didn’t. Together we watched and we both cried. It was beautiful to see what kids can do, on both sides of the picture. That was 7 years ago. This year, a coach who’s team was competing St. Jude for the first time was standing next to me when the lights went low. I leaned over and said “I’m going to cry during this video, so if you want to move someplace else, I’ll understand. We watched together, and we cried. (this is the 2010 video as the 2013 video is not available) [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd42B3wdAi4]
The concept of being a part of a great crusade is warming. And to know that we are making a real difference is exhilarating Before the meet they had a young girl, a gymnast about 8 years old, address the audience and competing gymnasts. She thanked everyone for helping St. Jude and she thanked her parents and team mates for helping her beat cancer. And she told us all “I am grateful that I am still here.”
I believe that kids are kids; They support each other with genuine care, they play together, they laugh together, and they live with open hearts. Thank you to our team parents for joining the crusade and for letting your kids be kids. I am proud to be with a team that lives with open hearts.
Join our crusade. Click here to donate to St. Jude.