Christian Crawford and Denton Olson are sales consultants at Best Buy who took a journey to the place that saved Denton’s life. The teammates at the Best Buy store in Columbia, Missouri, traveled to Memphis to visit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® as participants in a health study looking at long-term effects of cancer treatment.
Denton is alive and healthy thanks to breakthroughs discovered by scientists and doctors at St. Jude — work that continues every day because of generous donations, including those made at Best Buy during our St. Jude Thanks and Giving® campaign. Donations can be made in Best Buy stores or online through Feb. 2.
Here is Christian’s experience visiting St. Jude for the first time.
“Would you like to donate to St. Jude today?”
It’s a question we ask customers hundreds of times over the holiday season, and it’s easy to forget the tremendous hope of every dollar donated.
At age 2, Denton Olson was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). He spent ages 3 through 6 traveling with his mom to St. Jude in Memphis, Tennessee, for chemotherapy sessions, often living three weeks a month away from his home in Missouri. Even after the cancer cells were killed, numerous treatments and complications kept Denton and his family going back to Memphis regularly for another six years until he was 12.
Denton is now a cancer survivor and works alongside me at Best Buy Store 602 in Columbia, Missouri. This January, I had the chance to travel to Memphis with Denton and his wife to give back to the hospital that saved his life.
As part of the mission of St. Jude to end childhood cancer, patients are often asked to return for a long-term study to research the effects of various cancer treatments. As participants in the study (Denton’s wife and I were control patients), we underwent numerous tests over our five-day visit.
They included blood draws, memory and concentration challenges, auditory and visual tests, lung capacity tests, balance tests and, our favorite, the exercise stress test (essentially, running on an ever-inclining treadmill until your legs give out). While we might have been exhausted and ready to return home by the end of the week, we were constantly reminded of the importance of our efforts.
I’m usually not one to get emotional, but on the first day at St. Jude I found myself fighting back tears. Childhood is supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life, but what I saw were kids growing up in a hospital, fighting cancer, scared, not knowing why this is happening to them or if they’ll see their next birthday. I saw mothers and fathers holding onto their loved ones, hoping and praying for the pain to go away.
But I also saw hope. St. Jude covers all costs for patients and their families for medical expenses, travel, housing and food, making treatment accessible to thousands of children every year. The world-class doctors and research staff have pushed the survival rate for childhood cancer from 20 percent to 80 percent in just over 50 years. And while St. Jude may be a hospital, it feels like anything but.
The campus features play areas, aquariums and other amenities to make the children feel more at home and comfortable during an incredibly difficult time in their lives. I can’t say enough about the staff either. The doctors, nurses, and everyone else who cares for these kids are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and every one of them will tell you how rewarding their job is.
Over 75 percent of the hospital’s expenses are covered by donors, and I’m proud to be part of a company that has been one of St. Jude’s top fundraising partners. Every donation, big or small, goes straight to treating patients and caring for their families. Without the tireless, lifesaving work of St. Jude and the generosity of its donors, Denton and thousands of children like him wouldn’t be with us today.
Customers are invited to donate to St. Jude in stores and online through Feb. 2, 2019. To learn more about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, visit www.stjude.org.