Memphis thanks Maloof for his spirit, inspiration, & courage

By Anna Yee

January 23, 2013 Updated Jan 24, 2013 at 11:21 AM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It takes almost $2 million a day to run St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

However, not one patient or family member pays a penny while fighting their battle with cancer at the hospital, thanks to your donations.

It's been that way since 1957, when St. Jude founder Danny Thomas started the hospital's funding-raising organization ALSAC, or American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities.

Current ALSAC CEO Rick Shadyac calls former Peoria Mayor Jim Maloof a catalyst for St. Jude.

"People like Mayor Maloof said yes," said Shadyac. "They had the courage to stand behind Danny Thomas and that vision and that dream Danny Thomas had, and they said yes and a time when there were no statistics. There weren't shiny, glossy images of a beautiful hospital that we have today. They believed."

Fifty years later, the 65-acre campus is flourishing.

One of the strongest fund raisers is the St. Jude telethon in Peoria. Maloof never missed a telethon, or a note when he sang at them.

"I will certainly always remember him singing," laughed Shadyac. "He loved to entertain us. I will always remember his outgoing personality... I mean, he just left such a lasting impression on all of us that knew him."

Jim Maloof left a lasting impression on Dr. Beth Stewart too.

She's a Dunlap High School graduate and now works at St. Jude, both treating patients and doing research.

"One thing that I'll never forget in my lifetime," said Stewart, "when I was telling Jim that I was working on becoming a doctor here at St. Jude, and I was telling him about some of the research and stuff that was going on, he looked at me in the eyes and said, 'Don't stop.' And so, I'm here today because of him, because he told me not to stop."

Just like St. Jude is leaving footprints in the medical field, Jim Maloof's hometown is making its mark.

"I say it all the time, and I mean it sincerely," said Shadyac. "I think Peoria embraces St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in a way that no other community in America does, and that's due in large part to the leadership of Mayor Maloof."

To help continue Jim Maloof's love for children, participate in the St. Jude Dream Home giveaway, starting January 24.

News 25 Today will host a "sell-a-thon" beginning at 4:30 am, so tune into WEEK for your chance to win... and help the thousands of kids in need.