By Rita Cosby Anchor
msnbc.com
updated 3/9/2007 4:33:07 PM ET 2007-03-09T21:33:07

I didn’t expect to be going back to Florida this soon after the Anna Nicole Smith controversy, but I am thrilled to be returning to participate in an event that is incredibly special to me. This Friday night I am leaving snowy New York and heading down to Palm Beach where I am touched to be an honored guest at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Gala, which will help raise money and awareness for children with cancer and other tragic childhood diseases.

This is a cause very dear to my heart. I lost my mother to cancer in 2002 and I remember every day when I visited her at the hospital, she rarely mentioned her own fight, but instead talked about the young children who were stricken with cancer and did not have the full and long life she experienced. Talking about the children she'd see wheeled into rooms nearby, brought tears to my mother's eyes, and reminded her how lucky she was to have had 73 great years on this earth. I will think of my mother as I try to do what I can now to help make a difference in the lives of children with this devastating disease.

St. Jude offers children and families treatment, but most of all, it offers them hope. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital treats nearly 5,000 children each year…kids who are facing catastrophic diseases such as cancer, pediatric AIDS, blood diseases and other serious ailments. It has treated children from every state in the United States and from more than 70 foreign countries. Amazingly, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion, or their family’s ability to pay.

In addition, for the past five years, almost 85 percent of every dollar given to St. Jude has gone to the needs of the children in the hospital and their first-rate research. And St. Jude is making headway in this tough fight. Since St. Jude opened it’s doors, survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer, has increased from 4 percent to a staggering 94 percent.

When St. Jude asked me to assist years ago, I knew my mother was looking down from above, and there was no way I could refuse. I have since met some of the hospital's great success stories, those wonderful smiling faces on children who years before could not walk or barely breathe . Those smiles are the only encouragement I need to know this is well worth my time.

If you want more information about St. Jude Children's Research Hospital at: www.stjude.org

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