TOPEKA (KSNT) – St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital treats the toughest of childhood cancers and pediatric diseases. 27 News Evening Anchor David George recently traveled there to meet one of the heroes who make it all possible.
Michael Bigley is currently the Director of Strategic Partnerships, and he was once a patient himself. He now leads the team working on corporate donations and employee contributions that support families seeking care at St. Jude.
Michael grew up in southwest Missouri. At nine years of age, he wasn’t feeling well, and doctors kept treating repeated ear infections. Over a period of time, his doctor wanted to run some blood tests. When the results came back, he was told he had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, which is cancer in the blood and bone marrow. Doctors immediately recommended St. Jude for treatment.
“I think when you’re nine years old, you want to hang out with your friends, go ride your bike, you know, play outside and that moment, I mean, when someone would say, hey, we think you have leukemia, we think you have cancer. You don’t know what that means. When you’re a kid… you only know what what adults tell you at that point, right?”
This was Michael’s first time away from home and Memphis, the biggest city he’d ever seen. He says he met so many people, from care staff, to nurses to doctors…and it was certainly a new thing to be in the hospital, especially for a prolonged period.
“Going through my treatment plan here at St. Jude was two and a half years of chemotherapy. I was on what they call total 13 protocol, which is a high risk. I spent a lot of time here, and I will say like this was my second home. I grew up here at St. Jude.”
As Michael got older, he kept coming back for checkups and found himself healthy. He graduated high school and then went to college, but like many people, he was unsure of his career path.
“For me to say, you know, I want to do something that I love, something that I enjoy, that’s going to make other people happy, right. And so that was what I focused on doing, and and I dabbled in various jobs along the way and worked in sports for a while. Somehow I always knew that I wanted to be able to help and give back.”
He says a lot of hard work really paid off, because everything he did was like taking steps to get back to the place where he can help every day…as others helped him.
“For me specifically with my team, we’re focused on companies and employees in the workplace, right? How can you bring St. Jude inside your workplace, make a payroll deduction gift or host a workplace fundraiser. Every dollar that someone can give truly does make an impact. When we have so many people around the country that want to give back and help.”
Michael believes everybody has a giving heart and wants to help the next person.
“I think anybody can do anything they want to help. If that is helping rally their co workers to have a fundraiser, if that’s helping tell their neighbor or friend more about the work that happens here at St. Jude, or even personally making a contribution to write a check or to visit us online. I think there’s so many opportunities to give back, but everybody has the journey that they can choose.”
He knows childhood cancer still touches so many kids in America and around the world…but he has first hand experience about the St. Jude mission of helping change and save lives.
“I think for me, you know, I reflect back and just my journey here and for my family and for me to know that St. Jude saved my life and that my family never had to pay for anything here. I know that every dollar that we are helping fundraise is helping families just like mine.”
You can help St. Jude save more lives by reserving your ticket for the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway. Tickets are $100 each and proceeds go toward research to fight deadly pediatric diseases and to support families at St. Jude children’s research hospital. Your contributions make sure no one pays anything for travel, accommodations, food or treatment.
Buy now (by clicking here) because tickets are limited and time is running out. The house will be given away during 27 News at 10 on Thursday, June 15th.