Imagine thinking your child has the flu and it turns out to be cancer down the spine. It happened for one Utica family when their son was only 6 years-old.

It was September and the Reppel family was planning their annual vacation to New York City when their 6-year-old son Andrew began waking up at night, sick to his stomach. Visits to various hospitals resulted in diagnoses of catch scratch fever, diabetes and at one point even the flu. With their son’s health not improving and after living at the Ronald McDonald house in Syracuse for several weeks in January they finally received the news they feared. "The doctor found me in the hallway and said 'it's cancer," says Kerry Reppel. "It's was running between his brain and his spine. It was going up and down. Never seen in a child."

Doctors wanted to operate immediately and cut his brain open but the Reppel family wanted time. Time to think. Time to research. They made 3 calls, one to Boston, one to Rochester and one to St Jude. "Within 24 hours I received a call back from St Jude and the doctor assured me, as a father I was doing the right thing, getting a second opinion," says Stephen.

"I guess what I felt was thank you. Thank you Danny Thomas for being a man who made a difference."

The way the cancer was presenting itself a team of doctors at St Jude had to create a new protocol to treat their son. So the family sold their house, took their oldest son out of school and flew to Memphis, Tennessee. "My first thought was, why is everybody smiling? Why do people look happy here, when they have this horrible experience I have" wondered Kerry. "And it's because they had hope. St Jude gives you hope."

That 6 year-old boy is now in his 20s and the Reppel family owes it all to St Jude. "I guess what I felt was thank you. Thank you Danny Thomas for being a man who made a difference," says Stephen.

Kerry Reppel

Danny Thomas may have started the dream but doctors and staff at St Jude carry it on. "The beauty is they share everything they create to all the other hospitals in the world. That's powerful."

A child should never have to suffer through cancer, but if the worst happens, the best answer is St Jude. "I could not think of a better place to be. If you ever wondered if your dollar really did do what they say it does, I would tell you it does."

Become a Partner in Hope by donating $20 a month. Not only will you help save lives, you'll get a shirt to prove it. Donate online at St Jude.