It was 2014 when four-year old Hayden Heaberlin of Shreveport was diagnosed with cancer.

After considering several hospitals, parents April and Dusty Heaberlin chose St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. St. Jude had April and Hayden on a plane three days later. The physicians and surgeons at St. Jude were able to quickly determine Hayden’s diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan, because they had already done research on his rare type of tumor. 

Children come to St. Jude through a physician referral. For most diseases and treatments, St. Jude accepts those 21 years of age or younger. In a few exceptions, St. Jude accepts patients up to age 25. The research hospital shares its groundbreaking discoveries so that other doctors and scientists may use that knowledge to save children around the world. 

“The best thing I can say about St. Jude is that it’s a hospital that puts families first,” said April. “You don’t have to advocate for your child. They have your child’s best interest at heart. The team there is amazing.” 

Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent in 1962, when the hospital opened, to above 80 percent today. The majority of St. Jude’s funding for this lifesaving research comes from individual contributions. Coincidentally, right before Hayden’s diagnosis, his grandmother Arlena Acree along with Sheri Hightower had just agreed to co-chair the first Miracles on the Red fundraiser for St. Jude.

This year marks the fifth annual Miracles on the Red benefit, which will take place on March 23. Event co-chairs are Mary Elizabeth and Lane Acree, aunt and uncle of Hayden, who have been involved since the beginning and are committed to helping kids in this area who need St. Jude. They work closely with 22 other dedicated event committee members as well as Kayla Ferguson, regional development director, who oversees gala events for St. Jude throughout Louisiana. Since its inception, the event’s presenting sponsors have been Milbar Hydro-Test and Career Adventures, owned by Jerry and Arlena Acree, respectively. Last year’s gala raised $310,000.

One of the key messages that Ferguson shares is that no family ever receives a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food from St. Jude. For April, a huge financial burden was lifted by choosing St. Jude, allowing them to focus on one thing: their son’s health. St. Jude treats about 8,500 children a year. Pediatric cancer treatments can last up to three years or more and the cost on average to help a St. Jude patient runs $425,000 including housing, travel and food.

Shreveport has one of eight regional St. Jude Affiliate Clinics in the U.S. that families may visit for ongoing treatments. 

Thanks to the lifesaving research and care at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Hayden is now four years cancer free. April is hopeful that Hayden’s case may help another child in the future and laments for the families she met in Memphis whose outcome has not been as fortunate. “It makes you want to fight even harder to raise money.”

AT THE GALA

This year’s theme for Miracles on the Red is “The ABCs of Cancer” to commemorate the child-inspired and created wall display at St. Jude, which highlights 26 views of living with cancer and lessons learned from that journey. A rendition of the alphabet wall will be on display at the gala.  

Infographic and photos courtesy of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Guests will enjoy cocktails and dinner, music and dancing. The program includes a live and silent auction and the opportunity to make a donation during the “Give to Live” segment. Attendees will also hear firsthand about the St. Jude experience from a St. Jude patient. 

Entertainment will be provided by Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs from Natchitoches. The 10-piece band offers something for everyone: rock, rhythm and blues, funk, country, swing and singalong favorites. The band is donating the entertainment for the evening.

The committee is excited to have America’s foremost “auctiontainer” Letitia Frye be a part of the Shreveport event this year and the live auction will feature vacation trips and other big-ticket items. 

The silent auction will be solely online; guests will be able to use their mobile devices or devices set up around the room to bid. Non-attendees may also participate in the online auction beginning March 18. 

Miracles on the Red

Saturday, March 23
Cocktail hour: 6-7 p.m.
Program: 7-11 p.m.
Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino
Attire: Spring Chic
www.stjude.org/shreveport

Individual tickets $150

Sponsorships
Hope $15,000 (2 tables/20 tickets)
Angel $10,000 (1 table/10 tickets)
Dream $5,000 (1 table/10 tickets)
Promise $3,500 (1 table/10 tickets)
Give $2,000 (1 table/10 tickets)

Follow St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – Louisiana on Facebook for sign-up instructions.