Please bear with me, this is going to be a long one.

This morning someone asked me, "how long have you been doing St. Jude Radiothons?", and after pausing for a moment to figure it out, I realized that 2021 marks my 20th year. 20 years?!?! Seriously?!? I can still remember my favorite moments of  every radiothon, and my memory usually really sucks when it comes to other aspects of my life. So why can I remember moments from 20 years worth of St. Jude Radiothons? Because you never forget moments that change your life, I guess.

I remember feeling complete awe after the total was announced at the end of my very first radiothon and being incredibly unprepared for the emotions that come along with it. I never would have imagined that the Rockford area was capable of that much giving, and I have never been so thankful to be wrong.

I remember all the highs and lows that come from each new St. Jude story I hear or patient I meet.

I remember the faces of each Rockford-area St. Jude patient that has approached me with a hug and a huge thank you, and I still feel completely undeserving of that appreciation. I'm just the mouth that tells some of their stories. They are the cancer warriors and survivors that are brave enough to relive their personal hell time and time again to inspire others to give.

Let's get down to the real life-changing stuff though. In twenty years there are two St. Jude moments that I will never forget; the first time I set foot inside St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and the first time I met Sydney Ives.

I believe the first time I went to St. Jude was in 2007, and I was SCARED to walk in the door. I hate hospitals. I hate the smell. I hate the look. I hate the overwhelming feeling of sadness and struggle that surround hospitals. Not St. Jude though! That hospital feels like a children's museum with a mission to make kids smile. It's mind blowing to me how the most serious childhood cancer cases are sent to St. Jude, but you would never know by looking at it that everyone within those walls is somehow facing the fight of their lives. Then you learn that no patient ever receives a bill from St. Jude and that they make sure EVERY need is taken care of, at no cost to the family, and you truly feel like you stepped into an alternate universe full of hope, love and caring. One step within that hospital's doors makes you want to be a better person. Truly.

Now for the big one, meeting Sydney Ives. The first time Sydney and her mom Tasha came to the radiothon, Sydney was fresh out of treatment at St. Jude. They came really early in the morning and Sydney was wearing a facemask because her immune system was so compromised. I was just recovering from a cold, so I kept my distance, just watched and listened. She sang, she smiled, and she spoke with words and wisdom that far surpassed her age. She had an unshakable faith in God that never wavered, despite her terminal brain cancer diagnosis. I remember the day she passed away and how she inspired the entire Rockford community to love a little bit more, which her family continues to do today. Tasha and Dean continue working with St. Jude helping to create new programs for bereaved parents, and I will never understand how they have the strength to constantly relive the loss of their beloved daughter.

Now that I am a mother of 2 beautiful girls, I thank God every day that St. Jude Children's Research Hospital exists in case our world is ever upended with a cancer diagnosis. I also hope I would handle that diagnosis with as much grace, courage and faith as all of the amazing St. Jude families I have met these last 20 years.

In 20 years I have learned a lot. I've cried a lot. I've truly learned what the word "hope" is all about. I am honored to be a part of the St. Jude family, and I want you to join it too. Please call 800-372-4999 or click here to become a Partner In Hope for just $19 with St. Jude. Dialing those 10 numbers right now will save a life, I promise you that.

Catch Lil Zim on ‘Q98.5 Mornings with Lil Zim & JB’ on Q98.5 from 6:00 a.m. to 10 a.m. Follow her on TwitterInstagram, and  Facebook

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