Television news anchor Joe Birch made a commitment to himself and his community 20 years ago – to lace up, run and support the kids of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital ® while fundraising as a St. Jude Hero ®.
That promise became a 20-year commitment and because of his dedication to Memphis and supporting St. Jude kids, Birch has been named the 2021 St. Jude Hero Among Us.
The Hero Among Us award is given each year during St. Jude Memphis Marathon® Weekend presented by Juice Plus+® to a St. Jude Hero who exemplifies what it means to participate with purpose for the kids of St. Jude, going the extra mile to ensure families never receive a bill from St. Jude, not for treatment, travel, housing or food. St. Jude Heroes are athletes who fundraise while training to support the lifesaving mission of St. Jude: Finding cures. Saving children. ®
The lifelong Memphian is a familiar face to many in the MidSouth as the longtime news anchor at WMC News Channel 5 in Memphis, where he has been supporting the lifesaving mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital each December during St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend.
Birch was among the 2,900 participants at the first St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend in 2002 and is one of just a handful of people who have participated every year since. In addition, Birch has brought St. Jude into the homes of millions by telling the stories of dedicated St. Jude Heroes® running a virtual race in their hometowns in 2019 to patient families whose bravery and tenacity continue to inspire and supporters in Memphis who won’t stop until no child dies from cancer. More than 30 runners have participated in all 20 years of this event. Some of their personal stories are featured on St. Jude Inspire.
“Joe Birch has been a tireless hometown champion of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for more than two decades and he continues to further its lifesaving mission through his commitment to our cause,” said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., President and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “His efforts may be focused locally in our beloved Memphis, but his impact is global. Support from St Jude Heroes like Joe allows St. Jude to embark on its six-year, $11.5 billion strategic plan to impact the more than 400,000 kids afflicted with cancer around the world each year. On this 20th anniversary of the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend, I honor all St. Jude Heroes and I am grateful for Joe, our St. Jude Hero Among Us, a loyal friend to our community who will always be part of our St. Jude family.”
This is not the first time Birch has been recognized for his philanthropic efforts. He received the Legacy Award in 2016 from ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude, for running 15 years as a St. Jude Hero. In his 20 years supporting St. Jude, he has rallied his supporters to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the kids of St. Jude. Among many other honors, Birch was the 2004 recipient of the Frank Horton Award, given annually by the Memphis Runners Track Club to recognize exceptional volunteerism by a person.
Since 2002, when 2,900 marathon and half marathoners took to the streets of Memphis for the first-ever St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend, tens of thousands of participants have united for what has become the largest single-day fundraiser for St. Jude, a marquee event that not only brings families, friends, neighborhood associations, and businesses together for a purpose, but also creates global awareness around the important work that happens every day at St. Jude.
Childhood cancer is a multi-trillion-dollar, multi-year problem. Fundraising campaigns like St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend and the fans who support it fuel the overarching $11.5 billion, six-year St. Jude strategic plan, which includes tripling its global investment to impact the more than 400,000 kids with cancer around the world each year.