Fenwick Student Stands Against Childhood Cancer

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been the backbone of the family of Sadie Briggs ’20 for four generations.

By Sadie Briggs ’20

Editor’s note: Long-time Fenwick Speech Teacher Andy Arellano reports that Sadie Briggs presented this past summer to the St. Jude Leadership Society in Memphis, TN. “She began crafting her speech last April,” Mr. Arellano says proudly of his protégé. Sadie made the trip from River Forest with her grandfather and her mother, who knew nothing of about her presentation and really didn’t want to “waste the weekend.” During the speech, her surprised mom “broke down and cried,” Arellano says.

Today, I would like to thank everyone who has made this experience possible. This is my second time being able to come to this event, and even though I am up here again, this experience truly leaves me speechless.  

Sadie’s great-grandpa, Joe Shaker, Sr., in 1951.

Many people ask me why St. Jude means so much to me and, honestly, when I was little, I felt that my amazement was obvious. Everywhere I went, from my grandparent’s homes, to dinners, events, and more, St. Jude was always present. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to meet my great grandfather, Joseph Shaker, who explained the importance of this great hospital. My great grandpa was one of the co-founders of the hospital along with Danny Thomas. Being first generation Lebanese, with five children and a wife to support, my great grandfather decided to join Danny’s dream. Today, I am the oldest of 20 of Joseph Shaker’s great-grandchildren. Only my brother and I ever got the chance to meet my great grandfather, but trust me, all of the little ones hear enough about him to make them feel as if they had met him too. They also know that they have the duty to carry on his St. Jude legacy. 

“Show me my way in life and I will build you a shrine.”

– Danny Thomas’ prayer to St. Jude Thaddeus
Alumnus Joseph G. Shaker ’68 (now retired) was President/CEO of Shaker Recruitment Marketing.

My great grandfather’s son, Joseph [Fenwick Class of 1968], my grandfather, has also played a major role in my love for this hospital and the St. Jude mission. He still actively participates on the St. Jude/ALSAC board. My grandfather is a person who is often described as one of a kind. Everyone who meets him falls in love with him, and there is nothing that makes him happier than helping St. Jude and teaching his five grandchildren about this hospital. Because of him, we all keep St. Jude so very close to our hearts. 

St. Jude’s Mission Statement

The mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of our founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay.

I first participated in the St. Jude Leadership Society when I was a freshman in high school. I was one of the youngest students present, and visiting the hospital for that first time changed everything for me. I became more grateful for all of the work that my family has done to support this wonderful facility. At that time, I also learned that everyone can play a role in helping St. Jude, no matter one’s occupation or college major. Even though I have no clue as to what I want to do when I am older, I do know that with God’s help I will always stay involved with the St. Jude mission. 

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Choosing a Catholic Education

GUEST BLOGGER

How a grade-school speech contest led a South Sider to send his boys to Fenwick — despite proximity to two other high-school options near Countryside/La Grange.

By Patrick Heslin

Patrick, Jr. ’09 (from left) and his younger brother, Sean ’17, with their dad, Pat Heslin, Sr.

The road to Fenwick for my boys started when my son Patrick was in the 5th grade. He attended St. Cletus La Grange and brought a letter home about a Fenwick speech contest one day.

I grew up on the southside in Englewood and knew very little about Fenwick. I lived about a ½ mile from the original St. Rita High School at 63rd and Claremont in Chicago. On Sunday afternoons I would occasionally attend football games in their walled-in stadium. I could get in for 50 cents, if I had to pay at all, and the hot dogs with mustard were my Sunday dinner. What I vividly remember was St. Rita playing on a hot Sunday afternoon against a Fenwick team dressed in black. I thought these guys had to be tough wearing black in that sun!

Fast forward a few years. I am now a dad and I am reading this invitation to the Fenwick speech contest. My career has been in technology sales, and the only public speaking I have had is a class in college and a Toastmasters class when I got my first sales job. Toastmasters is a great, community-based public speaking program where you learn by writing and delivering speeches to your peers.

Throughout my career I have always looked at how effortlessly some people are able to speak in front of an audience while others look like a deer in headlights. In these situations, I am often reminded of the quote from Jerry Seinfield: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death.  Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I am sure that all the above experiences were going through my mind when I committed to taking Patrick to his first speech contest at Fenwick in 5th grade.  The speech contest was on an early Saturday morning in November. Walking up to Fenwick for the first time can be intimidating! It’s got that Gothic look to it. We made it to the cafeteria and met our very small team from St. Cletus. We were surrounded by many larger teams from other Catholic grade schools.

Mr. Heslin says it didn’t hurt that Fenwick speech guru Mr. Arellano is a White Sox fan. (Andy, center, is pictured in his classroom last September during a surprise visit from team radio announcer and former big-leaguer Ed Farmer, left.)

Andy Arellano welcomed us and explained the rules for the contest. Then Andy took some time to talk about Fenwick. You could tell he was passionate about it as Andy explained the history of Fenwick and why it was a great choice for my son’s high school education.  He may also have mentioned at some point that he was a White Sox fan, so I then knew he was also a man of great intelligence.

Time to Choose

In 2005 young Patrick told his dad he’d walk to Fenwick from Countryside rather than go to closer high schools. (’09 FHS Yearbook photo.)

As they say, “rinse and repeat,” so we did the speech contest for three more years. I actually became a judge in the contest in subsequent years. Fast forward and Patrick is now in 8th grade. I tell Patrick that we live within a mile of two great schools, but immediately I could see in his face that his heart was elsewhere. I told him it would be four years of taking trains and buses if he went to Fenwick, and he told me he would walk every day if he had to.

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