Making a visit last week to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital were Gregory Hassler, Kappa Alpha Psi; Ryan Ealy, Phi Beta Sigma; Keshia Graham, Sigma Gamma Rho; Audrey Elion, Delta Sigma Theta; Willie Brooks, Kappa Alpha Psi; and Vearnon Woods, Alpha Phi Alpha. (Courtesy photo)

All over the nation and throughout the world, funds are raised each year for Memphis-based St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to combat the scourge of childhood cancer. But local organizations this year are sending a clear message: “We care.”

“I am a native Memphian, and we want the nation and the world to know that we care about our own,” said Dr. Audrey Elion of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. “Our city is on the pulse of what is happening, and we are known for so many things. But you can hardly find people as loving and caring as Memphians are. We wanted to help make a real difference this year. That’s why we got involved in the iHeart Radio Memphis’ event.”

iHeart Radio Memphis is a part of the national St. Jude Urban Cares Radiothon, slated for Thursday and Friday, November 14-15. Urban radio stations all over the country will be tuned in to the fundraiser.

The Memphis-based event is the third largest St. Jude Urban Cares in the nation and has raised over $1 million. Five of the local “Divine Nine,” moniker for the African-American Greek organizations, will be involved this year, along with the 100 Black Men of Memphis, the National Black NBA Association, and Jack and Jill of America.

Organization members will volunteer their time answering phones in three-hour blocks during the two-day radiothon.

“For us, it is a way to continue our legacy in community service,” said Dr. Elion. “One of our national initiatives is helping fund research for childhood cancer at St. Jude. This is our first year being involved so I am the first-time chairperson. The fact that all treatments and services are free of charge to the children and their families is tremendous. I know that we have our separate organizations—the sororities and fraternities. But we are a family in Greekdom. And when it comes to serving and helping, we put all that other stuff aside.”

iHeart Memphis is located at the Thousand Oaks Boulevard complex and consists of four stations: Hallelujah FM, V101, K97,  and WDIA. The radiothon will begin Thursday at 6 a.m. and run to 7 p.m. The same time frame is set aside for Friday. The St. Jude Urban Cares initiative began a decade ago and is supported nationwide by more than 50 stations.

Ryan Ealy, Phi Beta Sigma chairman, said this is a first for the fraternity’s local chapter.

“Of course, we have been involved nationally with St. Jude,” Ealy said. “This year, we wanted to take part in the national effort. We saw this as an excellent opportunity to partner with St. Jude locally in this radiothon. We got involved on a national level when we realized that St. Jude also does great research work in sickle-cell.

“On a local level, it is a great opportunity for the Tau Iota Sigma chapter to not only raise money, but raise awareness about sickle-cell, the important research the hospital is doing, and just overall, to stand with St. Jude in all the wonderful services it provides to sick children and their families.”

Vearnon Woods, the Alpha Phi Alpha chairman, concurs.

“This is also our first year participating locally in the radiothon,” he said. “We really wanted to be counted in this capacity. We want to be involved in supporting the research and the work St. Jude is doing. So when they first came to us—any time St. Jude comes to us—it is an automatic ‘yes.’ It is a wonderful way to support and give back to these children and their families who are struggling with these critical health issues, especially this time of year when the holidays are coming up.”

During the radiothon, those who call in to donate will be asked to become a St. Jude Partner in Hope, a monthly donor. Those who commit to a monthly pledge will receive a T-shirt that reads: “This Shirt Saves Lives.

The T-shirt campaign was started in December of 2017 and has already reached some 335 million people online, adding more than 70,000 new monthly donors.

Families of children with childhood cancer never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food. The research performed at St. Jude has taken the survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent during its 50 years of operation. Discoveries and effective treatment regimens are freely shared with doctors and scientists all over the world in the hope of saving thousands more.

Memphians and those in the surrounding iHeart listening area are invited to call in during the two-day radiothon to support St. Jude. The full list of locally participating organizations includes:  Kappa Alpha Psi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Alpha Phi Alpha, Sigma Gamma Rho, 100 Black Men of Memphis, National Black NBA Association,  and Jack and Jill of America.

More than $3 million is projected for this year’s local effort, and about $20 million nationwide.

Those interested in becoming monthly donors may go to: A T-shirt will be shipped out promptly.