Merrimack Valley Charity Raises Money, Awareness for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
When 10-year-old Jordyn Boucher takes the stage with the St. Jude Performance Team, she is not only helping to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, she is also living proof of the lifesaving work taking place at the renowned medical center in Memphis, Tenn. Jordyn was diagnosed with leukemia at 15 months and received an experimental transplant at St. Jude two years ago. Her cancer is now in remission. Being a member of the dance team, which will perform at the upcoming 13th annual Fitness for a Cure fundraiser at Lowell Memorial Auditorium, is Jordyn’s way of giving back. “This is helping out a lot of kids, and I feel good about that,” she says.
The Fitness for a Cure event was founded in 1999 by North Andover resident Sherri Sarrouf to raise money for and awareness of St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Sarrouf had just come through a difficult pregnancy, confined to bed rest much of the time. After her daughter’s premature but healthy birth, Sarrouf began looking for a way she could express her gratitude and help those who were not as fortunate as her family. She was drawn to St. Jude because of its mission to treat children from all over the world with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. A personal trainer and fitness professional, Sarrouf organized a fundraiser at the Sky Meadow Country Club in Nashua, N.H., that featured a fitness demonstration by her, some friends from the gym and a few kids. That first year they raised $5,000.
The fundraiser has grown each year since, this year securing major sponsors Flexecution, Inc. and Cityside Management Corp. The event now includes an afternoon family event and a nighttime gala that features dance team performances, music, live and silent auctions, raffles and food. The performance team has grown to 100 members from around the Merrimack Valley — 85 children ages 5 and up, and 15 adults. To date, Fitness for a Cure has raised $1.7 million for St. Jude. Sarrouf hopes this year’s event, to be held March 24th, will be the biggest ever.
“It’s been so exciting to watch it grow,” says Sarrouf, owner of SLS Fitness in Lowell, where she leads the performance team practices every Sunday from October to March in preparation for the Fitness for a Cure event. “I love seeing kids helping other kids. It’s so inspiring.” Sarrouf’s 15-year-old son, Stephen, and 13-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, are members of the performance team. “They’ve walked this journey with me and it’s really impacted their lives,” she says.
In addition to raising money, the performance team travels to Memphis to visit patients and perform, while at the same time forging lasting bonds with some of the children being treated there. This year’s Fitness for a Cure event is dedicated to a 10-year-old boy from Arkansas that the group met last summer who has since lost his battle with cancer.
The Fitness for a Cure event is being streamed live over the Internet, so St. Jude patients and their families will be able to watch the action. “The kids will be able to see all the people who are fighting for them,” Sarrouf says.
With the fundraiser approaching, Jordyn Boucher is excited about getting on stage and showing off the dance moves she has spent months mastering. Her participation with the performance team is nothing short of miraculous for Jordyn’s family. Just over two years ago, they were told by Jordyn’s doctors in Boston that they had run out of options for treating her leukemia. Convinced that more could be done, her parents contacted St. Jude. Soon the little girl was on her way to Memphis for treatment. Now, with Jordyn in remission and getting stronger all the time, her family wants to do what it can to support the hospital. “They gave us a miracle,” says her mother, Tracey Sukduang of Brentwood, N.H. “It’s been an amazing experience being part of St. Jude and knowing the impact they have.”
Tickets for the March 24th Fitness for a Cure afternoon family event are $35 for adults and $15 for children. Tickets for the evening gala are $150 each. To purchase tickets, or for more information, visit www.FitnessForACure.com.