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Support St. Jude School Program in the annual dream home giveaway

Updated: Mar. 24, 2021 at 7:02 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In just two days tickets for the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway will be up for grabs and this year’s campaign is the biggest one yet!

We’re expecting another record-breaking sellout with Friday’s kickoff!

The 4-bedroom, 4 and a half bath, almost half-a-million-dollar home is going up in Lakeland right now, built by Southern Serenity.

And tickets go on sale Friday.

All of the money raised during this important fundraiser goes to supporting the miracles that happen every day at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where children not only receive free treatment -- but also housing, food and even schooling.

Whenever St. Jude School Program Principal Randy Thompson talks about what he does for a living, his passion for it, can’t be contained.

“I think this is one of the most important jobs I’ve ever done,” said Thompson.

Thompson’s education background spans more than 30 years, and just when he thought he was ready to hang up his “gone fishin’” sign, he found himself back in the classroom once again.

A Shelby County Schools retiree, Thompson is now the principal of the St Jude School Program, sponsored by Chili’s.

He says his job is incredibly rewarding because he gets to help craft a customized lesson plan for each student.

“We run about 111 children in the month that we see them and that means we have 111 different educational programs that we strive to meet while they’re there,” said Thompson. “We are never a one size fits all in our program. We are a one size is what it is, and it’s your size and we make it work for you.”

While students might not change classes when the bell rings or get to play on the monkey bars, Thompson says his staff’s main goal is to still provide traditional in-school learning as best they can.

“When they roll through our doors, they aren’t patients anymore when they roll through the door, they’re all students and we work on what their goals and individualized needs are within in that,” said Thompson. “We see our students from one to three hours a week, depending upon their schedule. We can see them in the hospital school suite, we’ll also go to housing, we can also go to inpatient rooms as well to hold school classes. We do about an hour at a time with our students and we can work on whatever their school has sent us, we have our own curriculum, or we even Zoom in with their school classes back home from time to time and with their teachers back home to make sure they’re getting apart of that real experience.”

Apparently, Thompson’s staff is making the grade.

“To get to see that smile on their face when they roll through the door and we greet them and they come in for school and just to see that happiness on their face and that happens every day all day long,” he said.

This University of Memphis alum not only experiences that joy and happiness *inside* the classroom, it follows him outside too.

“We have a student, she has a nickname for me and she calls me by that nickname in school,” said Thompson. “During the Christmas holidays, I was out at Target shopping and I kept hearing this name and of course it’s not Randy, it’s another name, and I kept hearing this name and finally I turned around and there she and her family were in Target and so she saw me outside of school and she said what are you doing away from the hospital, away from school, don’t you live there and so we had that conversation. It made me really excited that I was still apart of her life outside of the hospital setting.”

So, because inquiring minds wanted to know...

“It’s Verne,” said Thompson. “I don’t know where it came from but she came up with it and that’s what we stick with it. Works for me. Randy “Verne” Thompson.

A straight-A principal teaching his favorite subjects.

“Love and learning at the same time, you can’t get a better combination than that,” he said.

You can support the work of the St. Jude School Program by reserving a ticket for the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway.

If you reserve your ticket this Friday you could also win a special prize -- a couples package that includes eight club box seats to a Memphis Grizzlies game next season, a diamond bracelet, and a $1,000 Visa gift card!

More: Here’s what’s inside the 2021 St. Jude Dream Home, now under construction

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