Symbols of Hope: 1997-1999



ESA continued to make the impossible possible. In the 1996 -‘97 ESA year members raised over $3 million in cash and pledges for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. That year marked the largest amount to date raised by ESA or any other organization in just one year!

Big changes came about in 1997. There were roughly 1,200 members across the world and with all the distance between each other, the big question was what exactly linked everyone together? Members were linked through spirit, camaraderie and challenge but communication was limited. Thanks to new advancements of technology ESA was able to address this problem head-on by creating their very own website. One URL link connected the ESA family and made the large distances seem so small.

As the year went on, the growth in technology helped advance Radio-thons, Math-a-thons, personal challenges, and other fundraising events put together by hardworking ESA members. One event involved ESA members very own pets, or dogs to be exact. The appeal of involving dogs in a fundraising event started with a touching story, Chuck and the Little Yellow Haired Girl. This wondrous story of puppy love with the involvement of St. Jude Research Children’s Hospital sparked everyone’s interest.

The excitement grew quickly and Chuck became a national symbol of hope as he helped spread the word for the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The kickoff of ESA’s Walkin’ the Dog events was at the 1998 Convention in St. Louis, MO. Since real dogs weren’t allowed at this particular event, Chuck the Dog made an appearance and members brought stuffed dogs to make the journey with them. Over 300 people with their “dogs” participated and raised more than $100,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.


Members left ready to start planning for their own Walkin’ the Dog event. Chapters all over held walks, dog and owner look-alike contests, obstacle courses, dog training presentations and professional Frisbee dog demonstrations. The events brought in people of all ages and helped raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.


Chuck wasn’t the only symbol that brought joy to children’s lives. A simple shoebox in Florida brought smiles to the faces of many children who were clients of Pediatric Services of America. The Sigma Tau Chapter of Clearwater, FL invited all the chapters in the Bay Area Council to join them in making Christmas presents made out of shoeboxes. They wrapped the boxes and filled each one with as many gifts as possible. It’s amazing how much joy a shoebox held.


Members packed their bags in July of 1999 and headed to the 52nd Annual International Council Convention in Portland, OR. Joan Bourn, International Council President, welcomed a crowd of 773 people with Henry Ford’s quote: “Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is a process, working together is a success.” This convention marked 70 years of ESA members working together to make a difference.

On Friday evening, members tied up their shoes to participate in a successful IC Challenge called the “Makin’ Tracks Treasure Walk.” There were 212 walkers who placed their donations in Chuck’s St. Jude Treasure Chest that totaled to $68,000.

Everyone was brought to their feet the next night as the presentation of dollars revealed $6,619,374 in cash and pledges raised for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The good news didn’t stop there. Past International Council Presidents’s Barbara Campbell, Linda Bomar and Virginia Clagett joined President Joan Bourn at the podium to announce yet another challenge met by ESA members. $5 million in cash and pledges needed to endow another ESA wing at the hospital was completed! ESA members had successfully finished the challenge in three years!  

Moving into the next century, ESA members hit the early 2000s by going the extra mile in fundraising. Check back in two weeks to continue the Glimpse in Time series. 

Written by Audrey Potter
Posted: 9/3/2019 11:00:00 AM by Mackeigan Wuest | with 0 comments


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