Marlo Thomas, the actress and activist, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work as the Outreach Director for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Marlo Thomas On Presidential Medal Of Freedom, St. Jude’s

Thomas, best known for starring as Ann Marie on That Girl, was duly humbled to be honored alongside the likes of civil rights activists James Earl Chaney, Michael, Schwerner and Andrew Goodman –who were murdered in Mississippi in the height of the movement in 1964 – with the United States’ highest civilian honor.

“It was fantastic. It’s not anything you ever dream about even. It seems so completely out of view,” Thomas told uInterview exclusively. ” I was so honored to be called and told that [President Barack Obama] was going to present this medal to me. The day was even more emotional than I thought it would have been. I was emotional about everybody who received one. Everybody that did receive them, they were so qualified.”

Thomas’ father Danny Thomas founded St. Jude Children’s Research hospital in 1962. Since her father passed away in the early 90s, Marlo has kept his memory and his wishes alive by tirelessly working to raise funds and awareness for the hospital and its mission – to give sick children their best possible hope to beat their illnesses

“My father made a pledge that no child, no family would ever pay for anything. So families come there and we pay for their travel and their food and their housing and all of their treatment,” Thomas revealed. “We are doing research and treatment on each child, so each child that comes there has a scientist and a doctor working on their case, which gives them the absolute best chance at survival.”

Thomas added, “When children come to us and they’ve been told by another hospital that it’s impossible to cure them or what they have is incurable, then our scientists go to work, working with the clinicians to a find a way to save this child.”

St. Jude’s doesn’t aspire to be the only place where ailing children can get the medical attention they need. The hospital, practicing the very cutting edge of medicine, gladly disseminates the information gleaned through its extensive research and trials with the greater medical community.

“We share everything we do, every single day, with the scientific community worldwide. We’re a part of an international, intellectual community,” Thomas explained. “It’s a wonderfully inspiring place because the collaboration is what makes St. Jude’s so great. Not only that we collaborate within the institution with our doctors and our scientists – which is quite rare – we also collaborate with the whole international community.”

Last month, St. Jude’s unveiled the Marlo Thomas Global Center For Education and Collaboration, which will help St. Jude’s be a nexus for treating childhood cancers in the United States and in more than a dozen other countries. Chief among the site’s impressive resources is a proton therapy center that was specifically designed for the treatment of children.


Q: What was it like receiving the Presidential Medal Of Freedom? -

Well, it was fantastic. It’s not anything you ever dream about even. It seems so completely out of view. I was so honored to be called and told that the President was going to present this medal to me. The day was even more emotional than I thought it would have been. I was emotional about everybody who received one. Everybody that did receive them, they were so qualified. Some of them were long overdue being recognized, like [James Earl] Chaney, and [Michael] Schwerner and [Andrew] Goodman, they should have been recognized years and years ago. Fifty years ago, I think they were murdered over civil rights. The whole day was very, very inspiring.

Q: What is the mission of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital? -

We’re saving children’s lives one child at a time through research and treatment under one roof. My father made a pledge that no child, no family would ever pay for anything. So families come there and we pay for their travel and their food and their housing and all of their treatment. We are doing research and treatment on each child, so each child that comes there has a scientist and a doctor working on their case, which gives them the absolute best chance at survival. We are working on what nobody else knows since we are a research institution. When children come to us and they’ve been told by another hospital that it’s impossible to cure them or what they have is incurable, then our scientists go to work, working with the clinicians to a find a way to save this child. What is great is that we share everything we do, every single day, with the scientific community worldwide. So everybody, every doctor and scientist in the world can see what we’re doing and can use that or piggyback their information on top of that. We’re a part of an international, intellectual community. We are the epicenter for brain tumors, we’re the epicenter for leukemia and we’re working very hard on neuroblastoma and other solid tumors. It’s a wonderfully inspiring place because the collaboration is what makes St. Jude’s so great. Not only that we collaborate within the institution with our doctors and our scientists – which is quite rare – we also collaborate with the whole international community.

Q: What will the new Marlo Thomas Global Center For Education and Collaboration focus on? -

Well, first of all, it has the only proton beam ever created for children. The building was built around that; it’s a hundred million dollar microscope if you will. It’s the tiniest beam on the planet, I am told. It was created in Japan with our doctors. This will be able to target the tiniest little brain and get that tumor without damaging the healthy tissue around it. It’s also called the Global Educational Collaboration Center because already doctors and scientists are coming from all over the world – China, Russia, France, Australia, everywhere – to confer with our people and for our information to grow and for their information to grow so we can save more children.