Inspired Lives: Rick Shadyac

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been a part of Rick Shadyac’s life for as long as he can remember. His father was part of the first generation of supporters that St. Jude founder Danny Thomas recruited to help form the Memphis-based hospital. As a child, Shadyac was himself a member of “Danny’s Army,” going door-to-door asking for donations to help children with cancer. Now, as president and CEO of ALSAC, his scope of the fundraising has expanded, but the grassroots spirit remains the same. With the help of more than a million volunteers and nine million donors—and retail partners such as Brooks Brothers—ALSAC has a greater army of supporters to confront the most aggressive pediatric cancers.

The partnership between Brooks Brothers and St. Jude is now a decade strong. What has been the biggest moment for you?

Rick Shadyac: I can think of many incredible moments that demonstrate how the entire Brooks Brothers team helps further the lifesaving mission of St. Jude. It was deeply meaningful to stand with Brooks Brothers executives in our new research and care center to sign the commitment for the Brooks Brothers Computational Biology Center.

I think about Brooks Brothers’ involvement in the PGA Tour event in Memphis—the way Seersucker Sunday helps distinguish the FedEx St. Jude Classic. It’s a great example of why we’re honored to associate St. Jude with a company as respected and admired as Brooks Brothers.

Brooks Brothers has raised more than $12.3 million for St. Jude since 2005 and received its Corporate Pioneer Award. What is unique about this relationship?

Brooks Brothers has made St. Jude feel like we’re a part of the family in so many ways—from sponsorship of the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer and St. Jude Gold Coast Gala, to the innovative approaches taken for St. Jude “Thanks and Giving” and Father’s Day campaigns. They provide leadership and excellence that is a model for other companies. Brooks Brothers also stands out for its willingness to share best practices for charitable support with other companies. It shows the deep understanding Brooks Brothers has for St. Jude, where doctors and scientists freely share their breakthroughs and discoveries in order to save the lives of many thousands more children.

Patients Ellen and Hannah join V.P. of Social Purpose at Brooks Brothers, Emilie Antonetti, as she accepts the St. Jude Corporate Pioneer Award from Terre, Tony & Marlo Thomas.

How is the Brooks Brothers Computational Biology Center essential in finding a cure for childhood cancer?

The growing Computational Biology department analyzes the immense amount of data provided by the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project as well as other lifesaving efforts at St. Jude. It serves as a home to the research that unlocks the secrets of some of the deadliest forms of childhood cancer.

What happens at the Brooks Brothers Computational Biology Center? What are genomes?

The Brooks Brothers Computational Biology Center develops and uses highly accurate methods for analyzing genome data to find mutations that lead to childhood cancer as well as the underlying causes of cancer drug resistance and relapse.

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Almost every cell in the human body contains the genome—a complete set of instructions needed to build and support life. The genome can be thought of as a book that has 23 chapters that are written in a four-letter chemical alphabet—A, C, G and T. Each chapter of the book contains millions of letters without spaces or punctuation, so every book has more than 3.2 billion letters in all. At least one copy of the entire book is found in most cells of the body and fits inside the tiny cell nucleus. But misspellings and other changes can occur, and some of these mistakes set the stage for cancer.

A peek inside The Brooks Brothers Computational Biology Center.

St. Jude has become a part of the holidays throughout retail. Why is fundraising at this time so crucial and effective?

Created by Marlo, Terre and Tony Thomas—the children of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas—the St. Jude “Thanks and Giving” campaign is in its twelfth year of asking people to “give thanks for the healthy kids in your life, and to give to those who are not.” We’re grateful Brooks Brothers and others have been willing to share their busiest time of the year with us and give their customers an opportunity to make a difference during one of the most charitable times of the year.

Because of the partnership of more than 60 brands, including Brooks Brothers, upward of $600 million has been raised through the St. Jude “Thanks and Giving” campaign since its inception. It will cost nearly $1 billion to run St. Jude this year, and 75 percent of that money must come from generous donors.

How does St. Jude celebrate the holidays for the children?

We treat more than 8,000 kids per year at St. Jude, and our family-centered care involves making families feel at home as these brave kids battle terrible diseases. We provide a number of festive ways for patients, families and employees to celebrate the holiday season:

• The annual Holiday Gingerbread Event includes a visit from local chefs who help patients create gingerbread cookies. The hospital’s kitchen staff also creates a life-size gingerbread house, to the delight of the children.
• The Secret Santa Workshop is a tradition at Tri Delta Place, the on-campus patient housing facility. This gives children a chance to select giftwrapped presents for their parents or caregivers at no cost.
• The St. Jude Women’s Club Elf Event features holiday carolers, craft activities and photos with elves at the hospital.
• Patients who are in the hospital on Christmas Day enjoy a visit from Santa, who hands out gifts for holiday cheer.

Aside from donations, how can customers support St. Jude?

More and more people are attaching St. Jude to their fitness goals, whether that means running a marathon or walking a 5K, by becoming a St. Jude Hero and generating pledges from friends and family. Some people dedicate their birthday or wedding to generate support, and others find fulfillment volunteering for the mission at local events or at our many affiliate clinics.

We’ve recently also begun to find support from those with a passion for video games, through events like the St. Jude Play Live Summit that helps spread awareness and generate millions of dollars.

Select staff members of St. Jude Children’s Hospital share a special message with Brooks Brothers and its customers.

What do the holidays mean to you? What is your favorite gift to give?

I look forward to spending time with loved ones, and it’s inspirational to hear from parents who are grateful to experience another holiday season with their child who came to St. Jude for treatment and has now found hope and healing. There is no greater gift than the letters and notes we receive from mothers and fathers thankful for St. Jude’s lifesaving care. When it comes to sending presents, Brooks Brothers makes it easy for many on my list, with the custom St. Jude logo merchandise we feature in the St. Jude Holiday Catalog. And, of course, the dapper Brooks Brothers plush bears are always a hit with kids.

What is on the horizon for St. Jude in 2016?

In 2016 our new Red Frog Events Proton Therapy Center will be fully operational. We are proud that St. Jude is the only pediatric cancer institution with a pediatric proton therapy center. We plan to double the number of children in St. Jude-led clinical trials and substantially increase the number of new cancer patients admitted to St. Jude. We are also increasing our research into cures for sickle-cell disease and other disorders. With the continued support and passion from partners like Brooks Brothers and your customers, St. Jude will continue to lead the way in how the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other deadly diseases.