Danny’s Roots in Lebanon
ALSAC/St. Jude founder Danny Thomas was one of America’s most successful television stars, but he never lost touch with his Lebanese roots. In fact, twice, in 1962 and 1974, he made trips to Lebanon. In his autobiography, Make Room for Danny, he described his first trip to Lebanon.
We drove that fifty miles up into the breathtaking mountains. I choked up when we finally got to Becheri. There were ten thousand people — probably the entire population of the village – crowded into the square in front of St. Saba’s Church. There were signs everywhere, both in Arabic and English: “Becheri Welcomes Her Son.”
I was taken on a tour of the village, which was made up of stone houses hundreds of years old. I saw the houses where my mother and father had been born. Looking at the rocky slopes, I could see how tough life must have been for them. Wherever we went, cousins came up to me, identifying themselves as either Kyrouz (my father’s family) or Touck (my mother’s). Their warmth was overwhelming. But I guess it’s the same when any immigrant’s child returns to the Old Country.
Board of Directors and Governors
This special love of heritage and family was shared by those in the Lebanese American community who rallied to help Danny with his dream of building St. Jude. Many of them would serve on the Board of Directors and Governors, and in many instances their children would follow them onto the Board. Today, ALSAC/St. Jude bylaws state that 70 percent of the Board must be of Lebanese, Syrian or Arab-American background. These Board members serve without compensation and attend meetings at their own expense, giving freely because they share Danny’s pride in heritage and his dream that no child should die in the dawn of life.