GERMANTOWN, Tenn. - When Madison and Lindsey Dismuke make presentations to potential St. Jude Children's Research Hospital donors, they start off all business.
They rattle off statistics about the hospital, document its history and explain where the money goes.
Then they tell the story of a patient named Ingram.
Ingram is 5 years old, and doctors see no signs of cancer in his body a year and a half after he went from complaining about a headache to brain surgery in the span of a week.
Then they hit the audience with their kicker.
"He's our little brother."
Whether the crowd is 20 or 1,500, that line always earns an audible "aww."
Wrapping up, Lindsey matter-of-factly reminds the business people that they accept both cash and checks on behalf of St. Jude.
Their system seems to be working - the Germantown sisters have raised more than $400,000 in a year and a half. And the only thing more impressive than the money raised is their ages: Madison is 12 and Lindsey is 10.
Madison, a Houston Middle School sixth-grader, was home sick the day her mother got a call from Ingram's doctor.
"I didn't know anything was wrong," Madison said. "And then she started crying."
Ingram - already dubbed "Ingram the Conqueror" due to his tendencies to knock over his own building block creations - went through surgery at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, then radiation and chemotherapy at St. Jude. He went from being "an annoying pest who could punch," according to his eldest sister, to a pale and skinny little boy with a diagnosis of anaplastic ependymoma, a rare brain cancer.
But Ingram's recollection of the children's hospital and its activities are so pleasant, that when the Make-A-Wish Foundation asked Ingram where he wanted to go in the world, he said, "St. Jude!"
His sisters developed the same enthusiasm for the hospital. Madison, whom parents Craig and Ashley nicknamed "Madison the Compassionate," wants to be a child life specialist when she grows up. Lindsey "the Artisan" likes it there because "nobody ever cries."
Their original $1 million goal looks more feasible, as the girls continue to spread their message. Their new campaign idea is auctioning some artwork Ingram wants to donate. Meanwhile, the girls are enjoying Ingram's return to their punch-happy little brother. Ingram's body shows no visible signs of cancer,, but has to go for scans every three months. Doctors won't consider him cured for 10 years.
"They want to help their little brother," Craig said of his daughters. "They know he's sick, they're scared, and they want to help. And they know there's nothing you can do to help. So I think they saw raising money as a way that they could help him."
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