Teaming up with St. Jude to help Ukraine

What happens when St. Jude, FedEx, and a group of brave volunteers combine their medical know-how, logistical expertise, and moral support to help childhood cancer patients in need? An overwhelming display of commitment to do good, even when facing the impact of war. 

Immediately after the invasion of Ukraine, the St. Jude Global Alliance mobilized Supporting Action For Emergency Responses (SAFER) Ukraine to coordinate evacuations and continued treatments for patients. Dr. Anna Vinitsky, pediatric neuro-oncologist at St. Jude, went to assist at the Unicorn Marian Wilemski Clinic, a triage center in Poland providing a safe place for patients and their families to receive care while awaiting transfer to a long-term treatment facility.

Dr. Vinitsky and the St. Jude team were well-equipped to handle the medical needs, including medications, dosages, and proper timing of sensitive treatments including those for cancer. But the logistical needs of matching patients to facilities, securing the proper approvals, coordinating travel, and establishing overarching operational efficiencies? That was a job for FedEx!

Fortunately, Dr. Vinitsky was able to call on her husband, Leo Vinitsky, senior vice president of IT Global Express Solutions at FedEx Services, to join the efforts. Leo immediately reached out to Chris Bumgardner, managing director of Global Trade Services at FedEx Express and a logistics officer in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, to help with the Unicorn Clinic’s operations. Chris readily accepted the mission and the two embarked on this very personal and meaningful volunteer experience.

As soon as Leo and Chris landed, they put their skills to work establishing processes and procedures, physical and people workflows, and risk management plans for the Unicorn Clinic. They also assisted with training volunteers, who included one special individual who wanted to help – the son of one of the clinic’s coordinators. The young boy was tasked with decorating the whiteboard the team used to track incoming patients. “The joy this little job brought to the boy, his mother, and all of the families and volunteers in the clinic shows the power of human nature in the face of hardship,” said Leo.

Leo and Chris’s efforts exemplify how skills-based volunteering can change lives and benefit others in unexpected ways. Currently, the Unicorn Clinic is still operational, with St. Jude, FedEx, and other volunteers continuing to advise and support from both near and far.