Celebrity Moms Strike a Chord in the Fight Against Childhood Cancer at Inaugural St. Jude Soul Celebration Gala

Nov 14, 2011, 17:34 ET from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital


 St. Jude patients and GRAMMY®-award winning artist Ne-Yo steal the spotlight

ATLANTA, Nov. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The inaugural St. Jude Soul Celebration Gala brought together red carpet celebrities like Elise Neal, Terri Vaughn, Roger Bobb, Demetria McKinney, Mike Peterson (NFL Atlanta Falcons), Dikembe Mutombo (NBA Hall of Fame), and Fredricka Whitfield for a good cause – to raise funds and awareness for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital®, one of the world's premier centers for the research and treatment of pediatric cancer and other deadly childhood diseases. In addition to celebrity attendees was a live performance by GRAMMY®-award winning artist Ne-Yo.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20111114/DC06493)

But the real show-stoppers for the evening were the patients. Elnora Lee shared the story of her two daughters, Felicia and Jayla, and attendees were reminded why they came out to support the event. "St. Jude took away the worry of how we were going to pay for our girls' treatment. They gave us hope that they were going to live."

The event was held at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Buckhead, and featured a red carpet event, cocktail reception, silent auction and a celebrity meet-and-greet for sponsors and VIPs. It was co-chaired by Hip-Hop celebrity moms Loraine Smith (mother of artist Ne-Yo), Aliyah "Mama Pain" Najm (mother of rap artist T-Pain) and Jacida Carter (mother of rap artist Lil Wayne), who after visiting St. Jude last year, decided they wanted to do more for the kids of St. Jude.

Emcees for the night were film and television actress Elise Neal and CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield. Neal, a native of Memphis, Tenn. where St. Jude is located, is a long-time supporter of the world-famous hospital. "St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is an amazing organization that really has the family in mind," she said. "They understand the importance of keeping the family together, which helps the kids get stronger while receiving treatment; that's what really draws me to this charity. Hearing stories like that of Felicia and Jayla is encouraging to me to keep supporting them and telling the world about the great work St. Jude does."

Felicia and Jayla were born with a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis, and in June 2008, a CT-scan revealed a nickel-sized mass in Felicia's brain. Both girls were sent to a specialty clinic for further testing the next day. The family was devastated to learn not only was Felicia's tumor active, but Jayla had a lesion in her brain, too. Together, they were referred to St. Jude for follow-up care where Felicia immediately began chemotherapy treatment to fight the growing tumor. Jayla's lesion isn't growing, so she doesn't need chemotherapy at this time, but she visits St. Jude frequently with her mom and Felicia. And every 90 days, she undergoes tests to monitor the tumor. Now finished with treatment, Jayla and Felicia continue to receive comprehensive care from St. Jude that includes psychosocial counseling, school programs and other services needed to optimize quality of life.

Events like the St. Jude Soul Celebration Gala are important to St. Jude because the hospital relies primarily on the public's generosity to support its lifesaving mission. It costs $1.7 million to operate the hospital every day and more than 75 percent of that funding comes from the public. St. Jude is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance and no child is ever denied treatment because of the family's inability to pay. It is because of events like this that families like Felicia and Jayla can continue to receive the lifesaving treatment they need to live happy, healthy lives.

Additionally, events like the St. Jude Soul Celebration Gala help inform communities that such a place exists so that if they are ever in a situation or know someone who needs treatment for their child, they can be comforted and know there is a place to go. St. Jude offers hope to families going through a very difficult time and should a patient need to stay for treatment; the hospital also covers the cost of transportation, food and lodging for the patient, parent or guardian.

People in the Atlanta area can still get involved. For just $20 a month, you can become a Partner in Hope® by calling the toll free number, 1-800-4STJUDE (1-800-478-5833), or visiting www.stjude.org.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital was the first institution to develop a cure for sickle cell disease with a bone marrow transplant and has one of the largest pediatric sickle cell programs in the country, treating about 800 children a year. St. Jude is the national coordinating center for the National Cancer Institute-funded Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium and the Children's Cancer Survivor Study. St. Jude also is the coordinating center for a national study of sickle cell disease treatment funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. St. Jude researchers and doctors are treating children with genetic immune defects and pediatric AIDS, as well as using new drugs and therapies to fight infections.

About St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering research and treatment of children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The hospital's research has helped push overall survival rates for childhood cancer from less than 20 percent when the institution opened to almost 80 percent today. It is the first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children, and no family ever pays St. Jude for care. For more information, go to www.stjude.org and follow St. Jude on www.facebook.com/stjude and www.twitter.com/stjude.


SOURCE St. Jude Children's Research Hospital