St. Jude patient Courtney and Regina Belle (Courtesy of St. Jude)

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital recently held its fifth annual National Call to Service fundraiser reception to recognize the charitable efforts of the Pan-Hellenic Council of African-American fraternities and sororities, known as “The Divine Nine.”

The partnership with the National Pan-Hellenic Council and St. Jude has resulted in over $3 million raised for the hospital this year.

St. Jude, widely known for providing full treatment to children with cancer and life-threatening disease without sending a single bill to families, has partnered with the Black Pan-Hellenic Council since 2013.

“The partnership is a perfect fit,” said Thomas L. Battles, national president of Kappa Alpha Psi. “It allowed the brothers to partner with an organization that wants to find a cure for cancer and sickle cell. As one of the leading partners of all the chapters with St. Jude, Kappa has raised over $500,000 since 2015 and we’re still climbing.

“I want Kappa to reach $1 million before my tenure as [president] is up,” Battles said.

Organizations honored at the St. Jude reception include Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

All nine organization presidents were also honored at the Thursday, Sept. 21 event.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was the first fully integrated hospital in the South when it first opened in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1962. Treatments culled at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent.

The hospital is also renowned for its pioneering research of sickle cell disease, a chronic genetic disorder which predominately afflicts African-Americans. It currently serves as one of the largest programs in the country for sickle cell disease.

“St. Jude Hospital supports people in the African-American community who are, let’s face it, more likely to not able to afford the care they need,” said former Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.

Today, St. Jude continues to provide care for over 40 percent of young African-American cancer and sickle cell patients — a staggering statistic that raises a bigger question about environmental and health conditions in Black communities.

“The sad part is, we are a community that does not usually get health help early on,” said Beverly E. Smith, national president of Delta Sigma Theta. “Because of the socioeconomic status of our community, it’s even more important that St. Jude serves us.

“When you look at our future and the continuation of our legacy, our children are everything,” Smith said. “And obviously the Black community is what’s most important to us, but St. Jude serves everybody. And its important to us that St. Jude serves communities indiscriminate of who they are.”

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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