NEW YORK—It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: A child is facing a life-threatening illness. A diagnosis of cancer or another disease has the potential to derail a family’s hopes and dreams for their future. Through cutting-edge treatments and pioneering research, the team at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is providing help and creating hope for the country’s youngest patients and their loved ones.
Thanks to generous donations and supporters, all children at St. Jude’s receive treatments at no cost, and families are never charged for services such as travel, housing and food.
For Eric F. Trump, it was plainly clear this was a cause worthy of support and there was important work to be done. Since its founding in 2006, The Eric Trump Foundation has been focused on raising money solely for the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and funding innovative, world-class research to treat the most invasive of diseases.
“Simply put, we are a charity with one of the lowest expense ratios in the world; we strive to raise a lot of money for kids battling terminal cancer throughout the country, and St. Jude is far and away the best pediatric hospital,” explained Trump, founder of The Eric Trump Foundation and EVP of development and acquisitions, Trump Organization.
A challenge for many nonprofits, he has kept the foundation’s fundraising expenses under control, enlisting Trump-owned and -operated facilities, as well as tapping into connections for F&B and other event-planning needs.
“We have the properties and vendors at our disposal and it’s easy for me to pick up the phone and say, ‘We’re doing a big fundraiser. I would appreciate you supporting it.’ When they hear about children dying of cancer, they immediately want to get involved,” Trump said. “We have an expense ratio between 4% and 6% and those fees are for credit-card processing. Everything else is subsidized by the properties. This year, we’ll raise $5 million and it all goes to the hospital. We maintain the lowest expense ratio of any charity in the world, and we are one of the largest private charities. It’s a special thing.”
On the Trump team, everyone is a player. Trump Hotels’ property teams around the world, in partnership with The Eric Trump Foundation, have raised more than $609,000 in 2015 to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Among those properties, the top fundraisers were Trump National Doral Miami, Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago and Trump Turnberry, to name a few.
“We started with me hosting golf tournaments and that turned into people getting involved. After a second year of success, one of the golf managers wanted to do their own event and it had a snowball effect: from employees posting on Twitter about a bake sale and selling St. Jude pins over the holidays, to the friendly competition among the front desk staff as they started to see the tangibles and the fun. It was on social media and other hotels hopped on board,” he said. “It was organic, and employees fell in love with the cause that I care so much about. For whoever raised the most money, I’d bring them down to the hospital for a visit, and it became a big part of their lives. If I were to disappear tomorrow, it would continue.”
Each Trump property had a different permutation in the global fundraising effort. At the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, one of the tallest buildings in the U.S., pastry chefs supported St. Jude by transforming the elevators that shoot up to the spire into the Gingerbread Express.
“The elevator is the fastest in the country and chefs make the gingerbread and build inside and outside of the elevator. It’s a different scene every year. Last year, they had an Alps theme with a train going around the top of the elevator, and a leaded-glass window made of fondant looked over a scene of the Alps. It was absolutely spectacular,” Trump said. “The hotel has a little gingerbread box and all donations go directly to the children at St. Jude. Hotel guests see it and they put money in the box and they have another opportunity to donate upon check-in or checkout.”
“St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital asks every hospital for the children who can’t be treated, or who they don’t have the protocol to treat, and they take those children on,” he added. “St. Jude sits on a couple hundred acres and it has the biggest super computers, as well as the smartest researchers and computational biologists who are behind those children.”
From purpose to impact, Trump’s passion for the children, families and medical professionals at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is evident in his actions. They are a big factor in what he and his organization have achieved. Safe to say, after raising $30 million to support the hospital’s efforts to treat and potentially find a cure for pediatric cancer; building The Eric Trump Foundation Surgical and ICU Center, a $20-million dollar state-of-the-art medical center; and funding The Eric Trump Foundation Surgical and ICU Center, also at St. Jude—his word is bond.
While Trump brings his business acumen to the table, this is personal for him, too.
“The hardest thing about cancer isn’t just the toll on the parents. The children go through a year or two of treatment and they get better and better but, in many cases, they relapse and have to fight it over again. Some may relapse three or four times. It’s heartbreaking,” Trump said. “My ultimate goal is to eradicate pediatric cancer. I want to continue to grow my foundation and, we will, as properties open up. The bigger the company becomes, the more avenues we have. At the same time, Don, Ivanka and I commit our whole lives to having the best hotels in the world—and the two missions work together.”