During Super Bowl LI week in Houston, Texas, Empower Magazine was afforded a unique opportunity to sit down with Richard C. Shadyac Jr. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As an organization, ALSAC is accountable for fundraising efforts in support of St. Jude’s $2.4 million daily operating budget.
Richard was in town to attend the 12th annual “Legends for Charity” Dinner and participate in honoring Rich Eisen (host of AT&T’s The Rich Eisen Show and studio host of the NFL Network) as the 2017 Pat Summerall Award recipient.
It is important to note that Richard was recently recognized as one of the three CR (Corporate Responsibility) Magazine 2016 “CEO of the Year” award recipients. His selection also distinguished him as the first CEO of a non-profit organization to be honored with this special award during its nine-year history.
“These awards are presented to CEOs that visibly exceed standards in the areas of employee relations, environmental impact and sustainability, human rights, philanthropy, and corporate responsibility practices.” ~ CR Magazine.
Richard’s family, starting with his dad (Richard Shadyac Sr.), has a rich history with ALSAC. Richard’s dad was among the first members of the ALSAC Board of Directors when St. Jude opened in the early 1960s, and the Board’s CEO for 13 years. His dad was also a confidant to Danny Thomas, founder of St. Jude.
During his conversation with Empower Magazine, Richard was extremely gracious in sharing some very insightful responses in our Q&A session.
EM: What was your upbringing like?
Richard: I was blessed to be the child of a mom and dad who provided tremendous support. My dad was a lawyer, and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. Now, my mom had many health challenges during her life. She was an amazingly caring woman. My brother and I (Tom, who is a very successful Hollywood director) grew up around an environment of knowing the importance of giving back.
I always remember my parents being champions of the underdog. And, that’s just how my father was. My father was an amazing lawyer. Mom and dad instilled allot of these values in my brother and I, and I think we have carried them into adulthood.
My father was a lawyer, and I decided to go into law. So obviously, my father influenced me tremendously in going into law. Ultimately, he influenced me in my involvement with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
I’m always amazed that my father decided to embrace St. Jude before there was a St. Jude. So, he was one of those ones that all Danny Thomas had to show him was a napkin with a sketch and say, I have this idea; show me how to make this idea become reality. Men and women like my parents decided to follow Danny Thomas, and look what they have created; the premier pediatric cancer research hospital in the world.
EM: In the midst of all the daily things you have on your plate, what do you consider your most important or significant priority?
Richard: Well, I consider my most significant priority is being an exemplary leader to my team; and, demonstrating my leadership values on a daily basis; and, motivating my team so that they can perform at a level of excellence; making sure that I provide the resources for them to be able to create the fundraising and awareness environment that we need to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Because, as I tell my teammates every day, the families across the street are counting on us to generate the money so that no family will ever receive a bill from St. Jude, so that mom and dad can focus on getting that child well. That’s what I tell my team all the time, and I think that’s why we’re laser-focused on it.
EM: Please share what is involved with you developing strategies and overseeing efforts to elevate St. Jude as an Iconic Brand.
Richard: Sure – we have a monumental task of raising over a Billion dollars a year. That means people need to be aware of this amazing resource that is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. So, that means really working on your brand; the public perception of what St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is. It’s the awareness associated with this resource that is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
So, the more we can elevate our brand, make more and more people aware of what St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is, it’s only going to increase support. That’s why we think it’s important.
It’s also a way to let the world know that if God forbid their child is diagnosed with cancer or another catastrophic disease, that there is this resource available to them at no cost, and that we can take care of those kids and help them. It also means that we can continue to generate the research dollars that are necessary to find a cure for pediatric cancer. Because, pediatric cancer is woefully underfunded despite the fact that it is the leading cause of death by disease in U.S. kids today; sad but true.
EM: In your ongoing fundraising efforts through events like the “Legends for Charity” during Super Bowl week, what do you see as your three to five-year fundraising goal?
Richard: Well, we need to continue to conduct events all across the United States, and very soon we think around the world that are ultimately going to continue to allow us to raise more and more money every single year so that we can meet the needs of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; serve more patients; serve more families who have been dealt this horrible news; and, continue to conduct research.
Events like the Legends for Charity serves two purposes: we’re going to raise a lot of money, and we’re blessed to be the beneficiaries of the Legends for Charity event; and secondly, it creates tremendous awareness when you’re associated with a person like Rich Risen or Joe Buck or Pat Summerall. I mean Pat Summerall – he’s the one; the Legends for Charity award is named after him.
Pat Summerall was a remarkable man who had a tremendous passion for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He and his wife Cheri have a tremendous passion for helping kids. We are truly fortunate to be the beneficiaries of this event and to be able to present the Pat Summerall Award annually at the Super Bowl and continue to pay tribute to Pat.
It creates awareness and gives us media access, and other people hear about it. So, then they might click on www.stjude.org to find out more about our mission. That’s what this is all about, raising money and raising awareness, and this event serves as a great platform for us to do that.
EM: It is obvious that you stay extremely busy fundraising for St. Jude, but what do you do to relax or have fun?
Richard: I’m blessed to have a wonderful wife that’s put up with me for decades; and, I have two great kids. I’ve been married 35 years. I met my wife in college and she’s been an amazing partner to me. We have two adult kids; thank God they’re healthy. I love to run, love to bike; and love sports.
EM: Where will next year’s “Legends for Charity” event be held?
Richard: The Legends for Charity will be in Minneapolis, Minnesota next year, and I bet you it’s going to be colder. We’re loving this 77 degrees here in Houston. But, we love our friends in Minneapolis. We have many supporter in Minneapolis, several corporate partners. We look forward to being with them next year.
EM: Anything else that you would like to comment on?
Richard: Well, I tell supporters all the time that St. Jude is one of those places that you need to experience to fully appreciate. Most people don’t understand the scope of St. Jude; what we do there, and the amount of research conducted.
One hundred eighty thousand kids around the world are going to be diagnosed with childhood cancer. Many more will go undiagnosed because they don’t have access to modern medicine. We think probably fifty percent of those kids really don’t have a great opportunity of surviving pediatric cancer like our kids have in the United States. Even in the U.S., one in five kids will still die of childhood cancer. So, our work isn’t done.
As a mom reminded me the other day, sadly she is a mom of “the one.” And, if you are the mother of that one out of five that doesn’t make it, that one matters allot. So, twenty percent of these kids don’t make it, and that’s why we’re here; to make sure that doesn’t happen.
I was deeply humbled to accept the CR Magazine “CEO of the Year” award on behalf of all my colleagues at ALSAC that work with me. I am blessed to serve the most amazing mission on the planet. So, that’s why I think I got that award. It’s a tribute to my team; my team is amazing, they are phenomenal.
EM: How can someone support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and your fundraising efforts?
Richard: The easiest way is to go to our website; www.stjude.org. You can learn more about our mission and make a donation there. Also, you can find information about activities that we have for you to participate in around the country. You can volunteer and participate in any of our fundraising activities; our golf tournament or marathon and half-marathon events. We have relationships with the Rock-n-Roll Marathon series.
I urge everyone to come visit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
“CEO of the Year” at Super Bowl LI