Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club: $1B for Children’s Miracle Network

Family who gave ended up receiving help: “She always tells herself, ‘Be brave, Elle. Be brave.’ As her mom, I’m so inspired.”

By: Nadine Aljets .

Walmart and Sam's Club associates celebrate $1 billion raised for Children's Miracle Network since 1987 by visiting Sanford Children's Hospital in Fargo.
Walmart and Sam's Club associates celebrate $1 billion raised for Children's Miracle Network since 1987 by visiting Sanford Children's Hospital in Fargo.
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This year marks a milestone year for Walmart and Sam’s Club associates, customers and members from across the country as they celebrate raising more than $1 billion for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

The historic achievement was celebrated at Sanford Children’s Fargo, which has benefited from the generosity shown at stores in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.

Since 1991 — when Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club first opened stores in the area — they’ve helped raise more than $3 million for local kids. This year alone, local stores raised $217,000 at the register and through special events during the fall fundraising campaign.

In the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, region, more than $4.3 million has been raised for Sanford Children’s since the partnership with Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club began 31 years ago. During the 2018 campaign, more than $167,000 was raised in 15 locations.

Store associates in South Dakota and southwest Minnesota went above and beyond by selling cotton candy and root beer floats, hosting carnivals, organizing 5K races, playing in golf tournaments and holding bake sales.

An unexpected diagnosis

For associates like Ben St. Pierre, a Wal-Mart store manager in Bemidji, Minnesota, the CMN cause hits close to home.

He and his wife, Amanda, intentionally raise their children to value giving back to others and supporting people in need. The couple has four children: Mason, 9; Elle, 5; Crew, 4; and Vera, 11 months.

In September 2018, 5-year-old Elle was complaining of a bruised wrist. A week later, she complained of a swollen ankle.

“Elle is very good at keeping up with her brothers and playing right alongside them. At first, we thought she’d just fallen,” said Amanda.

With Elle being due for a well-check doctor’s visit soon anyway, Amanda decided to bring her in early to have her ankle also checked out. The day of her appointment, her ankle was making a cracking sound. The pain had caused Elle to collapse to the floor in tears.

The family visited their provider in Bemidji, and the nurse practitioner decided to run some blood work.

The results came back quickly.

“The nurse practitioner said, ‘We don’t have good news on her blood work,’ and instantly your heart just sinks,” Amanda recalled.

The blood work was showing signs of leukemia, but doctors couldn’t be certain. They said the family should get to Sanford Children’s in Fargo, North Dakota, that day.

After the three-hour trip, which felt like an eternity, Ben and Amanda met with Melanie Chihak, D.O., a Sanford Health pediatric oncologist and hematologist.

More testing, a blood transfusion and a bone marrow test confirmed that Elle had Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL).

Support from many

Most of the St. Pierre’s family lives in Missouri and Texas, with the exception of Ben’s sister, who lives in Fargo. When the news came, they were fortunate to have her close by, but also to have the support of Ben’s work family.

“Right after the news, they (Wal-Mart co-workers) said, ‘Family comes first. Don’t worry about work. You need to be where it’s most important,’” said Amanda. “That to us was amazing because you don’t want to worry about work or your store when you get news like that.”

Beyond work, employees from other store locations, many who had never met Elle, came forward with donations and support.

“Ben has been with Wal-Mart for 15 years, and they’ve all been like family through the years, but especially now,” said Amanda. “Each store he’s worked at, they have sent things to him. Food, gift cards, gas gift cards. Wal-Mart all around has been amazing to us. So supportive. It’s been like having more family for us.”

Support for Children’s Miracle Network

While the St. Pierre family has close ties with the company, the Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club organizations have been supporting families like theirs for more than 30 years.

Just recently, associates, customers and members in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota put their money where the miracles are during the annual Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals fundraising campaign. Local stores and clubs raised $217,000 for Sanford Children’s Hospital in Fargo.

The effort was part of a national campaign, which resulted in over $37 million raised for member hospitals across the United States. In total since 1987, more than $1 billion has been raised in the U.S and Canada.

Donations raised will go toward special pediatric equipment and unique programs at Sanford Children’s that benefit children and families from all across the state of North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.

‘I never imagined it would be my child’

Through the St. Pierre’s many fundraisers they’ve done for Children’s Miracle Network and with their connection to Wal-Mart, they never thought they’d be the family benefiting from the work Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals does with hospitals.

“Never, ever, ever do you imagine that your child would be one of those kids who is benefiting from what you’re trying to do to help other families,” Amanda said. “All the times we’ve done fundraisers, I never imagined it would be my child.”

Next steps for Elle

Fortunately, Elle’s prognosis is good. She’s in remission but will continue treatment to stay that way.

“At 5 years old, and all the stuff she’s been through, she still has such a big smile on her face. So many people have been sucked into her story because she’s been so inspiring,” Amanda said.

“She always tells herself, ‘Be brave, Elle. Be brave.’ As her mom, I’m so inspired.”

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