When asked write about my St. Jude experiences I thought it would be easy. I have been to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital numerous times and I am passionate about the hospital's mission. However, it's not an easy task to put into words exactly how I feel.

I initially became involved with St. Jude through a college organization called "Up 'til Dawn." Up 'til Dawn has a mission to raise money and spread awareness of childhood cancer to college students across the United States.

I have always been a big volunteer around the Lafayette community, but I initially joined the organization because I was thinking of applying to law school, and I knew this would look stellar on a resume. After a few months on the board, we took a trip to the hospital in Memphis, Tenn. Within two minutes of being on the grounds, I knew I was brought here for a bigger reason than just a resume booster. As I toured the hospital and learned more about the amazing things this organization does, I became hooked for life.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital/ Ellen Hopper

It’s hard to describe a hospital as a bright and wonderful place, because it is normally a place of sickness and death. But this St. Jude is more than that. It is a place of hope, happiness and miracles. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is my happy place. I know Disney World is supposed to be the happiest place in the world, and I’ll say it does make me happy when I go there, but nothing has ever made me feel the way this hospital does.

To understand the beauty of this hospital in its entirety there are some things you must know first.

It all began with founder Danny Thomas, who simply wanted to be an entertainer. He had a gift to make people laugh and bring joy to others' lives. Money issues always plagued Danny and his family so while his wife, Rose Marie Cassaniti, was pregnant with their first child, Danny went to church to pray and find comfort before his child was born.

The collection plate came around and Danny put in $1 as so many do. After the priest spoke of missionary work and how important, yet expensive, this task is, Danny was so moved by the speech he gave $6 more.

After the mass ended, Danny realized that he had given all of his money to the church and had nothing left to pay for his wife and child’s hospital stay. In a panic, he knelt at the alter and prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, to bring him his money back ten-fold, and he would build him a shrine. The next day Danny received a job that paid him $75. Danny always remembered his promise.

Wheelchair Wagons/ Ellen Hopper

When Danny reached fame, he decided to build a hospital where children of any age, race, financial status or religion could seek free medical care. Danny worked for years traveling the country raising money so that his dream could become a reality.

There are so many stories about Danny Thomas that I could tell to help you understand just how important this man was, but instead I will stick to the facts.

On Feb. 4, 1962, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital opened its doors. At that time, the survival rate of leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer was 4 percent. Today, it is over 90 percent, all because of this amazing hospital.

The walls are brightly decorated so that it doesn’t seem like you are in a hospital. The desks are lowered to a child’s height so that they can see what’s going on. The wheelchairs are wagons, and to enter the doors, a smile is the only attire that is a must.

Most families who come to St. Jude never stay in the hospital itself since there are only 78 inpatient beds. Families stay in apartments that are around the campus so that their lives can stay as normal as possible.

No family that walks through the doors of the hospital receives a bill for treatment, transportation or food.

The patients that are at St. Jude are children who are under 18 years old, but if one of them gets cancer again at 45 years old, the hospital will take them back and treat them.

The number one goal is to cure cancer completely, but they want the families to focus on their children. They don’t want them worrying about everyday things like money and schooling. Every patient attends a school that is on the grounds of St Jude Children’s Research Hospital; siblings are allowed to go as well. All the research that is gathered at St. Jude is shared with hospitals around the globe, so that more and more children can be saved.

The hospital is truly a one-stop shop. You can get treatment, research, education, fundraising, gourmet food and world-class nurses and doctors all in the same place.

St. Jude Painting/ Ellen Hopper

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital started with a dream and man with a purpose to do something that was bigger than him. Danny believed that “no child should die in the dawn of life." That is why I support this organization.

If you haven’t been to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, I urge you to go. It is a place that will change you. You will leave the hospital with a greater understanding of why this mission is so important, and you will have a new hero to look up to in Danny Thomas.

Danny is my hero and so are the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, who fight for their lives everyday with smiles on their faces. They show me every day that miracles can happen and that I can do anything! The patients I have met along the way have helped me realize that although I am only one person, I too can make a difference in the lives of others. I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to see this amazing hospital and experience the passion and drive that Danny felt.

Help make Danny’s dream a reality that “someday, god willing, we are going to beat all the odds and make childhood cancer a thing of the past.” Let that day be today. Become a partner in hope, and save the life of a child. Do something that is bigger than you! Be like Danny and make a difference. Leave a lasting legacy.

Call 1-800-365-9665 to become a partner in hope today!