McMurray named “Event Chair of the Year” for volunteer work

WORLD-CLASS VOLUNTEER. Tina McMurray was recently named Event Chair of the Year for her work assisting St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital.

Courtesy of Tina McMurray

WORLD-CLASS VOLUNTEER. Tina McMurray was recently named “Event Chair of the Year” for her work assisting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Audrey Edwards, Yearbook Editor

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is an organization whose mission is to find cures for childhood cancers. It is located in Memphis, Tennessee. Their slogan is “Finding cures. Saving children”. They have helped many children overcome their illness as they work to cure cancer. 

A large number of people have volunteered at St. Jude’s. Sevier teacher Tina McMurray has devoted a lot of time to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She has helped organize events like a walk in Bristol to raise money and awareness for the hospital. 

“The St. Jude run is a 5K run or walk held every year in Bristol,” McMurray said.” Individuals can sign up to form teams and raise funds for St. Jude. On event day, participants walk or run 3.1 miles to show support for St Jude. This past year, we had over 1,000 people participate.”

People that get involved with St.Jude often do so for personal reasons. McMurry got involved for a deeper reason than just wanting to help others. 

“One of my daughter’s friends is a cancer survivor and patient at St.Jude,” she said. “While she was in treatment at the hospital in Memphis, we found out that there was a half marathon in Memphis and the money raised went back to the hospital. I signed up to run in the race.”

What she did not know was that the Memphis marathon would go on to change her life.     

“It was my first  half marathon and I was very scared,” she said. “On the morning of the race, I looked up and saw my daughter’s friend’s picture on the start line and immediately started to cry. I decided that if she could endure what she endured fighting cancer, then I could run 13.1 miles. After the race, I knew I wanted to get more involved somehow, but did not know how.” 

Like many other people, McMurray started volunteering because of friends but kept volunteering so she could help others. 

I served on the planning committee for the St. Jude Run in Bristol, Tennessee,” she said. “I served for one year as a member of the committee, then three years as the event chair. Some of my duties included meeting with local businesses about sponsoring the event, attending community events to promote the run and to get people to sign up, and appearing on local TV news and radio stations promoting the event.” 

How did someone with such a busy schedule have a full-time job and volunteer this much? 

“I don’t know that I have figured that out yet,” she said. “I am a list maker. I have lists on post-it notes on my iPhone and in my planner. I look at those lists and then prioritize what needs to get done in order of what is most important or pressing at the time.”

While she hasn’t been able to work with kids directly, she met many patients, survivors and families of patients at St. Jude’s through her volunteer work.

“I have formed friendships with many of these folks that I will cherish for a long time,” McMurray said. “I communicate with many of them regularly.” 

All the work and volunteer hours that she put in and all the money she raised helped St. Jude quite a bit. This led to her being named “Event Chair of the Year”.

“I was caught completely off guard when my name was called,” McMurray said. “I had been invited to an awards dinner at St. Jude as part of a Volunteer Leadership Conference I was attending.” 

Although she had been told that she had been nominated for the award, she knew she was up against tough competition from other event chairs from larger cities like Boston, Chicago, St. Louis and Miami. 

“As I walked up to the stage to receive the award, with tears in my eyes, I heard the announcer say that I was a servant’s leader,” McMurray said. “I took those words to heart because that is my life mantra; to serve and serve well. I have been gifted two healthy children, a healthy body of my own, and the ability to use my voice to speak out and raise funds for a place that is near and dear to my heart. I don’t ever take that for granted.”

Many people would like to get involved like McMurray, but don’t know where to start. 

“My advice is to just do it,” McMurray said. “If you have an organization that you would like to get involved with in mind, I would ask people you know and trust if they can help put you in contact with someone from that organization.”  

Whether donating time or money, most organizations will accept any help they can get from the community.

“Giving back to my community has always been important to me,” McMurray said. “I feel that volunteering with St. Jude has allowed me to use my gifts and talents in a tangible and meaningful way. I want to help those who are facing difficult circumstances, like cancer. Families at St. Jude basically have to drop everything and move to Memphis for a long period of time.”

McMurry has always wanted to give back to the community and working as an event chair provided her with the opportunity.

“During my tenure as event chair, I led the efforts for our Tri-Cities region to raise almost $500,000 for St. Jude’s,” McMurray said.

McMurray recently decided to step down from her role as event chair.

“I stepped away from the role as event chair this past September due to my commitment to my teaching responsibilities here at Sevier,” she said. “I was fortunate to be able to donate my time to the organization before I was hired at Sevier. Even though I am not event chair, I will continue to financially support St. Jude as well as help out with the event behind the scenes.”

McMurry believes that kindness is one of the most important aspects of life.  

Every person has the ability to make this world a better place,” she said. “Doing one thing from someone else can lead to that person doing something else, and it begins to spread. I encourage readers to say hi to someone in the hall you don’t know, hold a door open, or do something nice in the community. You will be happy you did.”