The Impact of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with Odette Gutierrez and Kristin Tanner #660

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On Friday, September 27, the Norris Group proudly presents its 12th annual award-winning black tie event I Survived Real Estate.  An incredible lineup of industry experts will join Bruce and Aaron Norris to discuss perplexing industry trends, head-scratching legislation, massive tech disruption, and opportunities emerging for real estate professionals. All proceeds from the event benefit Make A Wish and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This event is not possible without the generous help of the following platinum partners: the San Diego Creative Real Estate Investors Association, InvestClub, ThinkRealty, Coach Fullerton, Keller Williams Corona, PropertyRadar, the Apartment Owners Association, MVT Productions, and Realty411. Visit for event information.

Aaron Norris is joined this week by Odette Gutierrez and Kristin Tanner of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Over the last 12 years, part of I Survived Real Estate is that The Norris Group pays for the event one hundred percent, so every single dollar that is raised is split between Make a Wish and St. Jude. Last year, they featured Make A Wish, and this year they really wanted to focus some attention on St. Jude. He doesn’t think nearly enough people understand what an awesome outfit that this company is.

Episode Highlights

  • How did St. Jude get started, and what is it that they do?
  • How did St. Jude have an impact on Kristin Tanner and her daughter Natalie?
  • How big is the hospital in its hometown Memphis, Tennessee?
  • How many offices do they have nationwide?
  • What are the 3 Ts of the nonprofit community?
  • What are creative ways people can give to St. Jude?
  • What is something unique that St. Jude will be doing this year that you might be excited about?

Episode Notes

Aaron began by asking how St. Jude, how it got started, and what they do. Odette began by thanking the Norris Group for everything they have done for them, and she has been honored to be a part of it. The hospital is actually in Memphis, Tennessee, but it treats children from all over California, the United States, and around the world who suffer from pediatric cancer and other deadly diseases. St. Jude was actually founded by the late entertainer Danny Thomas. He was struggling early in his acting career and made a prayer to St. Jude asking him to show him his way in life. A little bit after that, he began to have success in his acting career, and he never forgot that promise. He built what is now a hospital that is leading the way that the world understands the truth and works to defeat childhood cancer. It’s a hospital in Memphis that really is a national hospital that has a global mission in finding cures for pediatric cancer.

St. Jude has been at the forefront of a lot of different research, and part of that is because all the money that is raised is private in nature.  You’re not strapped down with the same protocols as somebody with who is receiving government funding, so you can be a little bit more experimental.  A lot of the contributions do come from the public. People donating anywhere from $1 to $1 million are really contributing to the mission of St. Jude.  The average donation is about $43. St. Jude has a very unique operating model because no family ever receives a bill for their treatment, their travel, their housing, or their food.  That family can then really just focus on helping that child live.  It gives that family the freedom to be able to focus on their child, and it also gets the researchers and doctors the freedom to really focus on whatever it is that is needed for that child, whether it’s a second MRI or whatever it takes to cure that child. It is a very unique hospital in that sense and lifts that burden from some of the patients and their families.

Aaron asked which cancers St. Jude has been at the forefront of progressing treatments.  She said when the hospital first opened, the overall pediatric cancer survival rate was 20 percent. Now, because of the research developed at St. Jude, that survival rate is now 80 percent. That’s a huge jump and growth from the when the hospital first opened in 1962. That means that one out of every five children is still not surviving. This is why it’s important for people to know that there is this hospital for people to support.

It’s not very often that somebody in the financial industry gets you to cry. Somebody who was inspired by I Survived Real Estate invited Aaron out to Tennessee to see an event from Memphis Invest.  St. Jude was the recipient, and their CFO spoke.  Aaron had never seen a more passionate CFO in his entire life who had the audience tearing up.  He did not get to tour the facility, but it really made an impact on him and he had no idea. He knew what the mission was, but he didn’t know exactly how they executed and the fact that the families who go there aren’t strapped with bills afterward.

Kristin Tanner is the recipient of some of St. Jude’s services, so Aaron asked her story and her involvement with St. Jude.  Back in 2007, her daughter at the time was three months old. Unfortunately, at that time she was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor called medulloblastoma, which is a very aggressive type of pediatric brain tumor. They ended up at the local hospital, and unfortunately, the outlook for her at the time was pretty dismal. They weren’t given much hope as far as her being able to beat it.  After a couple of surgeries at the local hospital to try to remove as much of the tumor as they possibly could, they knew that they were going to have to start looking for other alternatives for her treatment. They just weren’t satisfied with the answer that they could take Natalee home, make her comfortable, and enjoy her for the little bit of time she had left. Ultimately, that is what led them to St. Jude. It was only because of all of St. Jude’s phenomenal advertising and their outreach in all communities in the United States that the St. Jude name just floated around in her mind instantly when it came to picking another place to take her for treatment and for another opinion.  From the minute they contacted St. Jude, their arms were instantly wide open.  While the outlook was not really going to improve because there was so much uncertainty just based on how young she was at the time of diagnosis, they were full of hope, and their responses were just welcoming, honest, and wanting to help them. Ultimately, that’s where they chose to take her for her treatment.

They ended up flying to St. Jude about a month after her diagnosis when she was stable enough to travel, and they ended up arriving there late in the afternoon on a hot summer Memphis day. It was humid and after hours.  As they approached the front doors to St. Jude, she wasn’t really expecting to be greeted with so many people that were ready to take them in and advise them on how they would be proceeding. They were met by a neuro-oncologist, a social worker, a nurse, and a family life specialist who was there specifically to offer some entertainment for their son who was also with them at the time.  He was about 3.  Right there, they knew that this was going to be a family-centered approach to Natalie’s treatment.

When you’re providing, that is a little next level.  It’s not what you do when you think of a hospital. St. Jude is one of a kind. What drew them there was the fact that they’re a research hospital as well. This meant that they could take whatever it was they were finding and apply that directly to the bedside to treat Natalie without having to wait for her approval.  Because of the urgency of the situation, they felt like that was strangely important. They were all so very much aware that Natalie’s chances were not good. She had a less than a 20 percent chance of survival. Kristin wanted to know that her little life was going to make a difference in the world, and she knew that St. Jude would be able to learn from Natalie and be able to apply that to other children around the world.  As a mom, that was important to jer. She didn’t want Natalie to be forgotten.

It was quite an experience to be there and to learn about St. Jude. She didn’t know it at the time when they first arrived that late afternoon, but the things that they are able to cover are extraordinary. Housing was provided, meals were provided, and the medical care was free of charge. Natalie’s insurance would be filled, but anything beyond that would be taken care of by St. Jude. Kristin never saw a medical bill.  She and her husband were full time working parents at the time, and because of that, they were allowed to really snuggle in with their three-month-old baby and help her during the time we were at St. Jude.  They could enjoy her and focus in on her care and her health, all while not having to worry about the expenses piling up on them. It can be devastating.  It’s not just that you’re going through it, but it’s that interruption in work and family and the stress.  It’s hard to even imagine.

Natalie is 12 now, and she has just started middle school. Because of St. Jude, Kristin’s able to know her daughter as a little middle schooler.  That’s something that she never thought was going to be possible. It’s been 12 years of still being part of the St. Jude family. Natalie will always be a St. Jude patient, and they will always look after her. Her family will always follow up with them, and the expenses will continue to be covered. It’s truly something special and extraordinary, and she’s happy that you have that opportunity to go there and visit because so many people care about how great St. Jude is. Maybe they’ll see a commercial or get something in the mail. But, when you actually go there and you see for yourself the good that’s being done at that hospital and the smiles on the faces of these kids who are going through really tough treatment, it is really eye-opening and makes you realize how important the funding is for St. Jude and the good that it brings to families.

Aaron has never been to the hospital and asked how big the Memphis hospital is.  It’s a rather large hospital because it is not only the hospital, but directly next to it is the research that is being developed.  There is the GMP facility that’s actually manufacturing some of the medicine that’s being delivered to the patients. There’s one of three housing facilities there in addition to the fundraising offices for St. Jude outback. The great thing is that even though it is large there in Memphis, what’s really important is the global outreach. Being able to share those discoveries freely with doctors and hospitals throughout the world has been something that is a focus for St. Jude, especially recently with the collaboration with the World Health Organization to increase the survival rate of six of the most common childhood cancers from 20 percent today to 60 percent by the year 2030. It is a rather big hospital and it is growing inside physically. Their biggest goal is trying to reach every child because where a child lives shouldn’t determine if a child lives.

There’s so much more that goes into it than just treating somebody for a deadly illness. It’s so much stress; and the fact that Odette was able to take on all that holistically is really special. When The Norris Group was looking at who they wanted to benefit for I Survived Real Estate, their own family was impacted by cancer and a 17-year journey. Aaron’s mother was very East meets West.  Cancer care is often very personal for those who decide to go down the rabbit trail of really doing a lot of research. What really sparked his interest in St. Jude was that the research hospital piece is really the science side of why they were excited to include them in the mix. He wishes he had taken more pictures of his mom’s library of all the books that she read every time she was diagnosed with the next stage. She was in stage four cancer for a good six or seven years.  This is why he moved back from New York City. It amazes Aaron that St. Jude is willing to look at anything and everything and share that research as well.

It’s also neat to see the needle move. Some people feel like they’re constantly writing checks to cancer research, and it’s really cool to know that they have moved the needle on some of the cancers affecting children in a meaningful way. The research piece is cool, and then the outreach is just phenomenal. Aaron asked how many offices they have nationwide. Odette said they have about 30 plus fundraising offices since they are supporting the research and no family ever receives a bill. They are constantly doing events. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so they have their walk in L.A. at Paramount Studios, and we have a walk down in San Diego at Liberty Station. There’s a lot of fundraising that they do. It’s not only the big fundraising but also the awareness. It’s the fact that they want to let communities know and let people know here locally that there is a hospital that provides hope to some of the sickest children, be able to provide that knowledge that this hospital exists, and continue to fundraise for the fight against cancer.

At I Survived Real Estate, they often bring up the 3 Ts of the nonprofit community: time, treasure, and talent.  Treasure is the easiest piece to understand.  It’s just writing a check. That’s the easiest way you can support the real estate community. They try to spread the words about it not just about writing a check. It’s insurance, it’s stocks, it’s donating real estate. There’s a lot of different ways that you can give, including airline miles.  Aaron asked if there are any creative ways people can give to St. Jude besides writing a check.  Odette said there are many other ways.  If you go to their website at, there’s a site there that talks about the different ways to be involved. If you like to run and run marathons, there’s a program where you can run and raise money for the kids. There are so many ways to give. If you’re able to give monetarily, that’s a great support for the hospital.  They also rely very heavily on their volunteers serving in the committees for the events.  Locally, you can call their office in California at (714) 689-3300.  This is the best way to get connected and figure out other ways to get involved.

Time and talent are the other two Ts. They have things that people can volunteer for and maybe serve on committees.  The easiest place to find out about these is Facebook. They have a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital/Southern California page. If you look for that, they are constantly providing information about some of their events. They also have different dinner gala golf events in Southern California, walks, different programs and events like I Survived Real Estate that supports the kids of St. Jude.

This year, the Norris Group will not be live streaming the event as Aaron mentioned in the video last week.  Livestream is the bane of his existence and makes it so stressful.  They’re really going to focus on the people in the audience and make it more engaging.  He’s excited about trying some new things at the live event. But, it doesn’t mean that people can’t participate in something that they’re going to be promoting for St. Jude. Some tables are sponsored by corporate sponsors that attend the event. They write the check, and it gets passed on to the nonprofits participating.  Specifically, something St. Jude will be involved with that is new to to the Coachella Valley is a house giveaway. They’re actually giving away a home on December 4th, and they will start selling tickets soon.  Tickets are $100, and you’re entered into a chance to win a three-bedroom, three-bath home. You can go to and find it there under Coachella Valley.  There’s also a phone number, 1-800-535-6748. It will be in the program, and people will have the opportunity to purchase tickets there at I Survived Real Estate.  It’s a very unique model. They’re going to be giving away a home to one lucky winner, and they’re going to be raising a lot of funds for it. You just buy a ticket for $100 and get a chance at the drawing on December 4th.  They’re going to be giving away a home and other prizes; so not only will you get a chance to win that, but if you get in early by October 18th there’s actually another prize: a weekend getaway for two. So there’s a lot of other awesome prizes, and more than anything you’re helping these children fight cancer.

She was speaking the language of the Norris Group’s network. With a free house, who needs to buy lottery tickets?  Just buy one of these. If you have not explored St. Jude, please check out their Web site.  Links are here in the description.  Aaron ended by thanking Kristin for sharing her story and asking if there were any other helpful tidbits for a parent looking for resources.  St. Jude’s website is the best place to go to learn about St. Jude and what they have to offer.  Natalie actually just graduated to a clinic at St. Jude called the ACT Clinic or After Completion of Treatment Clinic. When she goes back for her yearly checkup, they’re focusing more on life for her after treatment, going forward, and teaching her how to advocate for herself.  They also teach her more about her health history and what she’s been through so that she’s able to describe that to future doctors that she will hopefully have wherever she lives once she’s older and out of the house.  She was grateful to St. Jude for helping make Natalie the whole person she was supposed to be.