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St. Jude Makes Big Promises. Do They Hold Up?

Lower Manhattan’s art scene welcomed an innovative new gallery of patient artwork presented by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital titled the #GiveThanks Experience in New York City.
Lower Manhattan’s art scene welcomed an innovative new gallery of patient artwork presented by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital titled the #GiveThanks Experience in New York City.

If you own a television, there’s a good chance you’ve seen commercials for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Its ads feature well-known celebrities like Sofia Vergara and Jennifer Aniston. It fundraises on this promise: “Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.”

A new investigation from ProPublica investigates that claim, a statement which helps the charity outraise any other hospital of its type:

Last year, St. Jude raised a record $2 billion. U.S. News & World Report ranked it the country’s 10th-best children’s cancer hospital, and St. Jude raised roughly as much as the nine hospitals ahead of it put together. It currently has $5.2 billion in reserves, a sum large enough to run the institution at current levels for the next four and a half years without a single additional donation.

Reporters David Armstrong and Ryan Gabrielson found that while families don’t pay for care, they often are buried under other types of financial strain:

While families may not receive a bill from St. Jude, the hospital doesn’t cover what’s usually the biggest source of financial stress associated with childhood cancer: the loss of income as parents quit or take leave from jobs to be with their child during treatment. For many families, the consequence is missed payments for cars, utilities and cellphones. Others face eviction or foreclosure because they can’t keep up with rent and mortgage payments.

Is St. Jude doing right by families and donors?

Copyright 2021 WAMU 88.5

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