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Eyewitness News tours St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

When you walk up to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, there is a 10-foot marble statue of St. Jude. Hospital officials say it’s a symbol of hope for patients as they embark on what will be one of the most trying journeys of their lives.

This hope began with a struggling actor named Danny Thomas. According to the hospital, Thomas turned to St. Jude Thaddeus and made a vow that if he ever found success, he would open a shrine dedicated to the saint.

Success came to Thomas years later. In 1962, he made good on his promise and opened St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

“If you want the best hope for your child, this is where you come,” says Cindy Howard.

Children like Howard’s son, Chandler, are beating cancer at a higher rate than ever before.

According to hospital officials, treatments discovered at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood survival rate from 20 percent when the hospital opened in 1962 to more than 80 percent today.

As Thomas promised, the research will never end until there is a cure. Victoria Frohlich, director of light microscopy, says even the smallest discovery can lead to big advances in helping not just children, but adults. The information learned at St. Jude is also shared worldwide.

“We are learning about cures for cancer,” says Frohlich. “How leukemia cells behave in their normal environment so we can suppress them. We’re learning about how to treat tumors.”

Hospital officials say children from all 50 states and around the world -- from Kern County to Honduras -- have been treated at St. Jude. Families never get a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food, which has been a huge help for Howard and her family.

“I don’t care who you are, but nobody can afford cancer, nobody can afford cancer,” says Howard. “It’s expensive. But, you know what? We’re going to do it anyway, because there’s nothing we wouldn’t do for our kids, to save our kids. So the fact that people are doing these things for St. Jude and to raise money to continue this work, it means a lot. It means a lot to me, and means a lot to every family here.”

For $100, people can win a new John Balfanz home and other great prizes. Tickets go on sale Feb. 15.

Money from ticket sales go to treat children from Kern County and all over the world with cancer.

The St. Jude Dream Home will be given away on May 11, live on Eyewitness News.

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