TODAY

TODAY   |  November 25, 2013

St. Jude’s patient, 9, gives back to the hospital

Marlo Thomas and one special 9-year-old who was declared cancer-free after help from St. Jude’s Children’s Research hospital join Kerry Sanders on TODAY for a Thanks and Giving 10-year-anniversary celebration.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we are back at 8:38 with more of our annual thanks and giving series. it's really special because this is our 10th anniversary .

>> we're celebrating the progress made curing child cancer at st. jude 's research hospital. nbc's kerry sanders is there. good morning once again to you kerry.

>> good morning. this is what they call the after alphabet wall and it's quite profound because each child takes a letter and writes what they're going for.

>> k is for khemo and a child writes it makes you feel tired and bad and especially cute because chemo is ch and not k. but we have been following what the children go through here and what the doctors and the staff are doing as they're saving lives. the future looks bright for 17-year-old summer wilson.

>> i'm not serena williams but i can beat my dad.

>> reporter: she was one of the first patients we introduced you to for thanks and giving. as an infant, summer was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer that appeared as a tumor in her arm. back then, her mom was given no hope by doctors in her hometown.

>> the best case scenario that we were given was take her home and love her. we'll probably need to amputate her arm but she's not going to make it.

>> reporter: after treatment she received at st. jude , not only were they able to save her life but her arm too.

>> it's rewarding to prove someone wrong.

>> reporter: like summer, every holiday season you see these beautiful faces on tv, online, and in print, often with celebrities like jennifer anniston , robin williams and sean white .

>> our discoveries helped drive the childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to 80%.

>> reporter: they're all testaments of the war against childhood cancer these kids fight every day. doctors all over the world send their toughest cases to st. jude . out of the 46 children that we introduced you to in the last decade, three have lost their lives. 6-year-old clare, 8-year-old nicholas jeffreys.

>> i want to see some of your moves.

>> there you go.

>> and just recently 11-year-old ryan christian. those who pass inspire researchers to find better treatment and their efforts are paying off.

>> just in the last decade we pushed cure rates from 80% to over 90% and we are confident that what we're learning from the project is going to allow us to do that for other types of childhood cancer .

>> reporter: that's music to the ears of the lewis family whose baby was diagnosed back in 2005 .

>> it's just unexplainable to hear that news that your child has cancer .

>> reporter: today lauren is 9 years old, cancer free and giving back to the hospital herself. and lauren is here with us right now. so you're giving back. what exactly are you doing?

>> i'm raising money for st. jude .

>> how do you do that? you're so young.

>> i design clothes and use it for a fashion show .

>> you design clothes?

>> yes, sir.

>> where did you get that idea?

>> in my head.

>> really? are they dresses or shirts? what do you come up with?

>> well, i do both.

>> who does the selling, mom?

>> no, we have dream makers that make the clothes.

>> wonderful. that's great. mom, i know this is a huge celebration for you but take me back. when you heard that lauren had cancer , what was that experience like? do you remember what it felt like to hear those words?

>> absolutely. it's very hard to forget. it's devastating just to be told that your child has cancer . and for us, it happened very quickly. we were given the diagnosis and we were sent straight to st . judes.

>> you were able to hear cancer free six months later. what did that mean?

>> it was a relief. a blessing from god. because neuroblastoma is a cancer that's rare and hardly ever cured but we were delighted and happy to have lauren here to celebrate now.

>> we are celebrating now.

>> we have a surprise.

>> come along.

>> come this way.

>> now, the "today" show has been our launching partner for ten years and we wanted to do something special for the children and i planned something very special for the "today" show. this wall, the alphabet wall means the most to the children and everybody always sees it because it travels right to the cafe. now we want to show you our dedication to the today show . everybody ready. drumroll please. 1, 2, 3.

>> oh, wonderful. thank you, marlowe. every day we give thanks from our friends at the "today" show. i know there's a lot of heros here but you guys are the real heros. the ones that really survived what is a challenge.

>> that's right. they're brave and they're strong and they're funny and they're fun. we have a lot of good times together and this is our special thank you to the today show . a lot of children got here because they saw about it on the "today" show.

>> thank you very much. we have a brand. we might as well hear them play something. come on guys. back to you guys here in the studio.

>> give them all big hugs for us.

>> thank you so much. [ music playing ]

>> great to hear these stories.

>> an amazing place. all the work they have been able to do.

>> all right. well, coming up