After sharp-eyed reader Chuck Hood of Westville read one of my columns last month mentioning my holiday card in 2012 that featured a photo of myself with Phil Donahue and his wife Marlo Thomas, it prompted him to ask me a question about the actress and her connection to St. Jude's.
"I enjoy reading your columns Phil, and after talking to my wife, we thought you might know the answer to a celebrity question we've been wondering about," Hood said.
"During the holidays, actress Jennifer Aniston appeared in a number of commercial advertisements helping promote the good great cause of St. Jude's Hospital. This got us to wondering if maybe she might be somehow related to actress Marlo Thomas who runs this very worthwhile organization?"
Thank you for your question Chuck, and you are certainly correct about the wonderful work chaired by Thomas and the good people of St. Jude's.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, founded in 1962 by the actress' father, comedian Danny Thomas, is a pediatric treatment and research facility in Memphis, Tenn. focused on children's catastrophic diseases. Danny Thomas died Feb. 6. 1991 at age 79. Today, the organization's mission continues guided by daughter Marlo, who just turned 76 in November.
As for any family connections to actress Aniston, who turns 45 on Feb. 11, the recent commercials you've seen airing are part of a new holiday campaign that launched back around Thanksgiving and features stars like Sophia Vergara, Robin Williams and yes, Aniston. While the commercials might be new, the holiday push for donations is not.
Thomas came up with "Thanks and Giving," a holiday campaign that started a decade ago.
"A woman came over to me and she handed me a letter," Thomas conveyed in an interview with ABC News and the wire services.
"And she said, 'Would you give this to Jennifer Aniston? I want you to know that she saved my daughter's life.' She went to her doctor and said, 'I want an MRI for my child. I think I have this disease that Jennifer Aniston was talking about.' "
This campaign raises money for kids fighting childhood cancer and other deadly diseases and allowed people to donate an extra dollar or two while holiday shopping at some of America's big retailers. Since it began, it has raised $380 million.
"St. Jude Children's Research Hospital was founded by my father with a big promise," she said, reminding it's a free nonsectarian hospital for children of all races and creeds so that every kid will have a fair chance.
"No child would ever have to pay. That we would take care of the child completely, and the family, and that we would immediately share our discoveries with the scientific and the medical community worldwide."
As for whether Marlo Thomas and Aniston share any limbs on the same family tree, the closest it comes is that Marlo played the mother of Aniston's character on the popular NBC sitcom "Friends," for three episodes during the series 10-year run until May 2004.