It is quite remarkable when one considers that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. has been in existence for 57 years, and that for 40 of those years the Driscoll family of Torrington has walked in founder and benefactor Danny Thomas’ footsteps, seeking treatments and cures for childhood cancer.
According to the St. Jude website, a young Danny Thomas sought guidance from St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes. If the saint would point to the path he should take, Thomas vowed to build a shrine in his name. Success followed his plea, and soon after, the legendary entertainer set about fulfilling his vow to St. Jude. The result was St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Thanks to Thomas and many others, those hopeless causes have grown fewer and fewer over the years.
Tim Driscoll Sr. was touched so deeply by Thomas’s efforts and the groundbreaking work of St. Jude Children’s Hospital that he began a telethon to raise money for the facility. On Sunday, the 40th anniversary of the telethon was held at Torrington High School, raising over $67,000. In all, the telethon has raised over $1.5 million for the hospital, said organizers.
Tim Driscoll Sr. died in August 2015, but his family did not let the torch that he carried with Thomas and St. Jude fall to the ground.
Two of his children, Kristin Raymond and Kevin Driscoll, along with their cousin, Derek Turbacuski, served as emcees in the THS Theater portion of Sunday’s event. A granddaughter, Kolby Driscoll, worked in the phone bank room along with Deborah Casey.
Various other Driscoll family members worked behind the scenes and during the preparation stages of the telethon to make it another smashing success.
“We consider this a family event,” said Kevin Driscoll, during a break from his duties in the theater. “We all get together before the telethon and prepare for the event.”
“My father knew that we would carry on his legacy with the telethon,” said Kristin Raymond. “It meant so much to him and it means a lot to us. Not many people get to leave a legacy, and our father did. It’s like he is still with us in spirit.”
Hillary Miller was with her little daughter, Madelyn, 5, who was anxiously preparing to perform and joining a daylong parade of entertainment enjoyed by both those in attendance and watching on television. The event was streamed live over the Internet for the first time this year. “
We talked about the telethon this morning and what it means,” said Miller.
“This is a testament to the way this city takes care of one another,” said Mayor Elinor Carbone, who read pledges in the phone room. “To see youngsters who have grown up and have children of their own now and all the families with their young children here brings it home what this community is all about. The fact that the telethon has been going for 40 years is amazing and reflects well on the Driscoll family and Torrington.”
Tim Driscoll Sr. was a longtime Torrington resident who was known for his involvement in several community organizations, including the Democratic Town Committee and the Litchfield County Chapter of the American Lebanese Syrian Association Charities, of which he was the president. He also ran for mayor in 2008. He, along with family members, have been frequent visitors to St. Jude; Driscoll was given a Legacy Award by the hospital in 2016 for his tireless commitment to the hospital. Driscoll Sr. said the telethon was “healthy children helping sick children”.
According to its website, the mission of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of founder Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family's ability to pay.
The telethon was also a talent show, with dozens of children and adults taking part. Schools were again very active — supplying young performers, serving as volunteers, and raising money for the hospital.
The event is a call call-in fundraiser, and each year groups and individuals from Torrington and surrounding towns volunteer their time taking pledges in a separate room away from the performances, which take place in the THS Theater. Behind the telephones was a tote board that showed rolling updates of donations that have been made, with the culmination of the event being the final tally that comes at the end of the telethon. The event was carried live on the Cablevision’s local public access channel.
In 2018 the telethon raised nearly $68,000. This year, according to Raymond, the event raised $70,045.
Another highlight of the fundraiser is a popular food and bake sale, with a wide variety of food and sweets donated by residents and businesses. Door prizes featured donated items, and tickets for the prizes were available for purchase throughout the day.
A large photo of Tim Driscoll, Sr. loomed over the THS Theater stage Sunday. But the photo really wasn’t needed to feel the enormous impact the man still has over an event that supplies funds to a hospital that’s mission is not to allow children to die in the dawn of their lives.
To learn more about St. Jude’s, visit https://www.stjude.org/