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'A real reason to be alive': Marlo Thomas on why St. Jude never stops fighting for their patients

Marlo Thomas from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital shares the heart behind the Thanks and Giving campaign.
/ Source: TODAY

Since 1962, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has been giving children hope for a long-lasting life beyond cancer. And that's something Marlo Thomas, the institute's national outreach director, takes to heart.

"The fact that we take care of all that cost and all the family has to worry about is getting their child well and keeping their spirits up — that’s a huge thing to give those families and for me, it’s a real reason to be alive," she told TODAY.

Thomas, who is also the founder's daughter, worked alongside others at St. Jude's in 2004 to create the Thanks and Giving campaign, which encourages holiday shoppers to donate money at the closing of their purchase.

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Best Buy, Kay Jewelers, Ann Taylor, Brooks Brothers and Marshalls, among many other retailers, have chosen to participate throughout the years.

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Because all patients are provided treatment, food, housing, room and board free of charge, Thomas relies heavily on the public for funding. It costs roughly 2.3 million dollars a day to run the hospital.

"I didn’t realize at the time ... if you can’t afford a bone marrow transplant, a surgery, radiation or chemo, your child wont get it. That’s heartbreaking to me — that your child would die because you don’t have the money for it? Or you don’t have the insurance for it? Or the insurance wont cover the other procedure?"

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It's being apart of something bigger and continuing her father's legacy that make her feel so excited to spread such a kind message — that everyone, no matter the circumstances, are welcome at St. Jude.

"Transportation for the parent and the child, all the food, where they sleep — it’s pretty amazing. And that was my father’s promise, that no child or family would ever pay. And that we would share immediately all of our discoveries and our pioneering breakthroughs. I’m pretty proud of it."

For more on how to donate and get involved, visit