Elisabeth Röhm’s Blog: My Visit to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

02/22/2013 at 08:00 AM ET

Elisabeth Röhm, best known for her roles as Serena on Law & Order and Kate on Angel, has been blogging for PEOPLE.com for two years now.

The actress, 39, currently stars as Taylor on The Client List, while her film In the Dark recently aired on Lifetime.

Her book, Babysteps: Having the Child I Always Wanted (Just Not As I Expected), will be released by Da Capo in April.

She can be found on Facebook, Google + and on Twitter @ElisabethRohm.

In her latest blog, Röhm — mom to 4½-year-old Easton August with fiancé Ron Anthony — opens up about her Valentine’s Day visit to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Elisabeth Röhm St. Jude Hospital Visit
My new friend – Courtesy St. Jude’s

Happy post-Valentine’s Day, PEOPLE.com!

I just got back from celebrating the love holiday at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. And it most definitely was a day full of love! I was moved by so many aspects of the hospital, but the faith element of Danny Thomas’ journey in creating St. Jude shone like a beacon of light. If you didn’t know it already, let me tell you that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital‘s foundations are faith, hope, and love, love, LOVE.

In the early 1950’s, Danny was a struggling entertainer trying to find his way. One day in church, Danny prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes, and asked him to, “Help me find my way in life, and I will build you a shrine.” Shortly after, his career took a turn for the better and he flourished as an entertainer. However, Danny never forgot his promise to St. Jude Thaddeus. After sharing his vow with friends, Danny developed the idea of building a children’s hospital as his shrine. That is the faith part.

The love part was that Danny’s dream was also to build a hospital where children could be treated without regard to race, religion, creed, or family’s ability to pay. In 1962 the hospital opened its doors, becoming the first integrated hospital in Memphis. The hospital also played a vital role in the integration of hotels in the city. If a hotel refused to accept an African-American patient being treated at St. Jude, the hospital would not use the hotel’s services for ANY patient.

A lot has changed in the world since 1962, but the brick and mortar values of faith, hope and love are still at the epicenter of everything that St. Jude is about.

There are still times when people within the St. Jude family face spiritual questions, or just need someone to listen or pray with them. During these times, families can call upon chaplain services who are there to help as spiritual companions, whatever the families need. They are not there to judge or change beliefs. Their goal is to meet the families where they are and help them explore how faith can be a source of strength and comfort.

Within the walls of St. Jude, there is grief counseling with a spiritual emphasis, chances for worship, sacraments and pastoral visits. In addition, the hospital’s two chapels are open to people of ALL religious beliefs. The history of St. Jude’s unconditional acceptance of all humanity is a perfect expression of what faith truly is. A vision that started with a prayer is still going strong day after day.

Elisabeth Röhm St. Jude Hospital Visit
We decorated cookies – Courtesy St. Jude’s

Today the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia — the most common form of childhood cancer — is at 94 percent thanks to the research of St. Jude. As a mother, I found this information to be deeply moving. But what also jumped out and grabbed my heart on this Valentine’s Day was the conscientiousness and thought that St. Jude puts into the holistic experience for patients and their families whilst being treated in the facility.

A medical social worker at St. Jude has a master’s degree in Social Work, and has specific expertise in helping families cope with the emotional impact of living with illness; and also provides education both in the community and in the hospital about the impact of illness on patients and their families. Shortly after a family arrives at St. Jude, a social worker will meet them and help get them settled. The social work staff is there to support patients and their families through counseling, including how to talk with a patient about their illness, or how to help siblings cope with the illness.

With hugeness of heart and the education to back it up, the social workers help these families to deal with the impact of illness on everyday life — from work to school, finances and family/marriage. Now, this is a big one — the social workers are there to help the families find both financial resources and community services to support not only just the children, but also the parents as they give up months, even years, crusading to save their child’s life. Moreover, social workers are there for the families EVERY single day.

Obviously ladies, my time at St. Jude opened my heart and will not soon be forgotten. Their tireless efforts in trying to keep life as normal as possible are outstanding, and the hospital as a whole provides a feeling of family that is totally real.

Further, the St. Jude School Program Presented by Target for children undergoing treatment can offer a familiar and reassuring routine, as well as a feeling of being in step with the outside world. School gives children a chance to keep a sense of identity and hope for the future, which is vital to their progression as an individual. Whether it’s the schooling, the housing, the teen programs or the nutritional aspects — there is not a stone unturned when it comes to the well-being of St. Jude patients and families. They even have fun and therapeutic activities for the parents to help keep them sane and healthy during such trying times!

During my visit, I learned that it’s not just the medicine, it’s not just the science or the fact that treatment is free — it is a place and a community that fully encompasses the golden rule of how we should treat one another. And as a mother, knowing that there is a place like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital allows me to sleep soundly at night. It is most definitely a prayer that has been answered, and has continued with a spirit full of so much love and life that touches so many people on a daily basis.

So as this Valentine’s Day has come and gone, I now truly understand the heart of St. Jude, as it has the deepest regard for humanity.

Elisabeth Röhm St. Jude Hospital Visit
Yum! – Courtesy St. Jude’s

Until next time…

— Elisabeth Röhm

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Rachel on

I would have liked to have read more about her actual experience and what she learned than the history of St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Not that it isn’t an interesting story… it’s just something I could look up any time.

I’d like to know what she did while there, what the experience was like and again, what did she get out of working with the children…

Ayla on

Rachel – She got what she wanted: a couple of pictures with a kid to go with her very informative but impersonal article.

Kristin on

I don’t understand how anyone can read this article and bash Elisabeth for it. Why do so many posters have to find something negative to say on every article that is on this site? It is getting to the point of being ridiculous.

Thank you Elisabeth for this article. I did not know the history of St. Jude’s hospital and this makes me respect them even more. I hope everyone can take the meaning of this article; Love everyone regardless of our differences; and use it in their everyday lives. That would be wonderful to see.

Marky on

So, Ayla….feel better for having said something hateful about Elisabeth’s beautiful blog? She very clearly chose to tell St. Jude’s story (which my generation knows well, but which yours may know little about, other than that it exists).

She tells in detail, what services are available, and how kindly they are offered….have you ever had a child who may be dying, and you absolutely don’t know what to do with all of the terror and emotion you feel? The exhaustion, fear, anger, need to pour it all out… all of that needs to helped by people who truly know HOW to do it.

Her personal time spent with any children there may not be something the parents want shared, but how much of the “story” of St. Jude’s did you really know? Or will you only care if YOUR child gets cancer and needs St. Judes? SMH

Ayla on

No, Marky, I do not have a dying child. I am, however, a nurse, and I work daily with children and let me tell you, the last thing they need is the celebrity of the day who stops by to get a picture taken to show the world how generous and solidary they are. Show me someone, celebrity or not, who actually DOES something and I’ll applaud, but this is mere publicity.

Kudos to her for taking the time in talking about St. Jude’s, but my post was in response to Rachel’s question about what she got out of working with the kids and that’s exactly what she got, publicity.

Rachel on

It is a problem when she pretty much almost took the story straight from the St. Jude website… nearly word for word. I didn’t say anything really negative in my earlier post about the article, just that I would have rather read more about her personal experience.

Amo on

Thanks for posting a nice article. What a sweet history they have. It’s so great to know that there are great people in the world that are trying to make a positive impact. Can’t wait to read more of your posts 🙂

Joe Cavallo on

This is not about Elisabeth Rohm. This is about the children at St. Jude. Since when is she obligated to report to the critics satisfaction? Unless you have gone to St. Jude –shut up—She went to St.Jude & gave her time. Did it occur maybe her time was more personal than she wanted to share.

Bob on

One of the manufacturers we represent in sales, opened a factory in Memphis. All of the distributors were invited down to see the factory and they arranged a visit to St.Jude’s Hospital, while we were down there. We saw a 15 minute movie, after a tour of the facility, and after it ended there wasn’t a sound or a dry eye in the room. When you see the compassion, research, and treatments given to the children, it humbles you to know that a facility like this exists and gives their information for treatments, to other hospitals throughout the world, if the children are too sick to travel. Their cure rate started from low single digits in the 1950’s to high double digits, in 2013, which is so important in catastrophic children’s diseases. The factory topped off our visit by informing us, that they gave a large check to St.Jude’s Hospital.Its been 30+ years and every time I hear St.Jude’s name, I tell the story or think of all the good work done for kids everywhere.

John Kersey on

I have donated to St. Jude for over 40 years. In 2013, 2014 & 2015 I raised money to buy Christmas gifts for St. Jude patients. I raised and several of us spent over$5,500 in these three years. Before beginning the project to raise money this year I asked St. Jude how it distributed the donated gifts. I was directed to Martin Hand, the Chief Donor Officer. He acted like he was over risk management. After several emails in which Mr. Hand disclosed little I canceled my efforts. St. Jude doesn’t want donors to ask questions about how it spends money.