Purple Eagle ceremony celebrates 10-year anniversary, welcomes back past honorees

Purple Eagle Ceremony Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary; Welcomes Back Past Honorees .
Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 6:49 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The FedEx St. Jude Championship isn’t just about crowning a winner, it’s also about battling childhood cancer. Wednesday marked the 10-year anniversary of the tournament’s Purple Eagle Plane ceremony.

Over $60 million has been raised for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through this tournament over the years, and the Purple Eagle Plane program is one way it recognizes the important work happening there.

The Purple Eagle ceremonies recognize former St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patients who are the children or grandchildren of current FedEx employees.

This year’s Purple Eagle honoree is 5-year-old Riley of Olive Branch.

It’s the perfect way to celebrate one year of remission. When he was just 18 months old, Riley was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“I nominated him four years ago, four years ago and I would have never dreamed we would have been going through this today,” said Riley’s grandmother Kim Raney, a 33-year dispatcher with the shipping giant.

Wednesday marked the tenth time this ceremony has taken place, and past honorees all came back to celebrate the special milestone.

It’s cool to have a plane, but it’s even cooler for Riley to see nine other examples of children who came face to face with cancer and beat it.

“The fact that we’re all alive and well is just a miracle,” said 2014 Purple Eagle Honoree Allie. “When I was going through treatment in 2013, I was told I wouldn’t make it to my high school graduation, and I just graduated from Ole Miss and I’m engaged. We’re getting married in December,” Allie said.

Allie says she wanted to be at this year’s ceremony to welcome the next member into their exclusive club.

“I would tell him (Riley) to live big and go ahead and brag about your plane, because that’s a big deal,” Allie said.

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