Don Dillman – Giving to Children is His Greatest Joy
Don Dillman believes his support of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital today probably stems from his time fighting in the Vietnam War nearly 40 years ago.
"I decided as long as I was over there, I wanted to help" in some way, he says. So he bought food with his extra money and distributed it to children in an orphanage once a month, with the help of an interpreter.
He really enjoyed the visits, so when he returned home he wanted to continue to help children. "But I couldn't afford to give or do anything," he says. Initially he painted helicopters for the federal government and later had his own produce and arcade businesses, and a security service. As complications from wounds sustained in combat worsened, he had to go to part-time work until he was classified as 100 percent disabled by the Veterans Administration a few years ago.
As a result, Don says he is again able to devote more time and resources to the thing which had always given him the most joy: helping children. "My mother had always liked Danny Thomas and what he did for the children, so that raised my awareness of St. Jude," he says.
As a result, Don began donating to St. Jude, and made the decision to include St. Jude in his will as the main beneficiary of his estate.
"I have no children, so I want whatever I have to go to the children (of St. Jude)," he says.
Don also is again able to experience the joy of "seeing kids' smiling faces when you give them something," just as he once did in Vietnam nearly four decades ago.
Over the past year he purchased approximately 500 coloring books and boxes of crayons, and in May he traveled the 1,000 miles from his home in Port Royal, Pa., to Memphis to deliver them to the children at St. Jude.
Although the long trip in a truck was very painful for him because of his disability, "When I walked in and saw the children, it took all my pain away. For them to go through what they do every day and not complain is amazing."
It wasn't Don's first visit to the hospital. The year before he brought car seats and strollers, and he has toured the hospital three times as part of recognition events for the Danny Thomas - St. Jude Society.
"You learn things on a tour you can't learn on television," Don says. "Listening to the researches, doctors and nurses amazes me . . . but nothing in the world can compare to seeing the children and how they act as if nothing is wrong. They light up my life."
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