One family, one important journey 

Case and Brock at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

By Shanda Gann

Carla Gray’s family has been involved in the St. Jude auction for generations. Carla’s mom, Annette McDaniel, began her journey with the St. Jude auction 45 years ago never thinking that her family would one day have a child as a patient there. 

Annette said, “About 45 years ago, Pete Treat approached the Lioness Club, that I was a member of, to ask if we would be interested in helping him have a fundraiser through the radio station for a hospital we had never heard of.” 

Pete’s daughter had been treated there, so this was a fundraiser that was near and dear to his heart. The club approved this endeavor and Annette has been involved ever since. They began the 3 day auction in a cramped KASO radio station but made it work. Annette’s first job was collecting money and keeping a record of what was donated. They raised just a little more than $25,000 that first year. A dear friend of Annette, Charlotte Reynolds, was also dedicated to the auction and has worked every one since the second year.

As mentioned above, Annette never dreamed her family would have a patient at St. Jude, but her grandson, Brock, was diagnosed with ALL (a type of Leukemia) at 20 months old. In April of 2010, Brock and his mom, Mandy, flew to the hospital and treatments began. They only spent one night alone as her sister, Brandy and mom, Carla alternated weeks staying with them. There were times that Annette would also travel with them. Another sister, Courtney, would stay when others could not. There was always someone by Mandy and Brock’s side supporting them. 

Brock’s Aunt Brandy had a two-year-old son named Case who was Brock’s best buddy. Brandy would sometimes take Case with her to the hospital. 

“Case would sometimes be the only one who could help Brock cooperate with the doctors and nurses,” she said. “He would help him eat and drink and calm down.” 

Case was just the thing Brock needed during this time. It seemed to bring a sense of normalcy to him.

Brandy also said that holidays were magical at St. Jude’s with “stores” set up for families to shop for free, superheros for halloween, Santa at Christmas, etc. There were always activities for kids to do and they were never just left to be bored in their hospital bed. They pulled wagons, rode IV poles and made crafts and edible arrangements. She said that all of it is real and not just what you see in the commercials.

Mandy and her sisters were raised volunteering at the auction. 

“Before all of the technology, I remember sitting on the back row of the phone bank hand writing pledges,” Brandy said. “The auction has really come a long way.”

Annette also remembers using pen and paper those first years. When they moved to the Civic Center and computers were brought in, Annette and Charlotte worked late into the night putting data into the computers. They did this for a few years until the auction became so big, more help had to be brought in. 

“I turned 80 years old this year,” Annette said. “I may not be able to put in as many hours, but my girls will be definitely be there.”

Brock is now 13 years old and cancer free. He does return to St. Jude to participate in research studies for patients after treatment. Carla’s family will never be the same and you will always see a member of her family at the auction. You might even want to check out the chili that Brock’s dad, Nick, will be cooking at the fundraiser. 

This is a special family and any volunteers helping them with the auction this year will be greatly appreciated.

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