Lifting weights – and hearts – for St. Jude

Thrivent member uses his passion for sports to champion the fight against childhood cancer

Thrivent member Dennis Taylor raised $50,000 to support St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Fundraising champion and event organizer Dennis Taylor of Glassport, Pennsylvania, is bringing some serious muscle to the fight against pediatric cancer. Since 2012, he's raised more than $50,000 through several sports-related fundraisers to support an organization near and dear to his heart: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Dennis and his team of muscle-bound volunteers hold co-ed flag football games in Baltimore, Maryland, and Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, and amateur wrestling bouts through a local organization, Code Red Wrestling. Another event he calls a Lift-a-thon, features Dennis in disguise as one of Santa's helpers. Participants are invited to see if they can out-lift the jolly old elf.

"If Santa beats you, you owe a dollar for every rep over your rep count," says Dennis.

He explains that his original intent was not for the event "to be a big money maker, but to spread the word about St. Jude and build stronger relationships throughout the community."

Dennis shared that the best reward, though, is seeing children smile and have fun with Santa. "I love seeing the look on their faces when they see Santa bench-pressing over 200 pounds!" (Santa has also been known to pop into a nearby Zumba class to show the adults how to dance.)

"I love seeing the look on their faces when they see Santa bench-pressing over 200 pounds!" – Dennis Taylor

Moved by the message

Dennis' involvement in raising money for St. Jude began with a former employer's annual fundraising drives. When Dennis' first daughter was born, he was moved to take on organizing his own Thrivent Action Team events. "I supported them through my job. But when Trinity was born, I wanted to do more to help the kids at St. Jude. Their message really touches my heart."

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital provides treatment and care for children battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases. According to St. Jude, the average cost of treating a child with cancer is around $425,000. No child's family ever receives a bill for treatment, travel or housing. The majority of St. Jude's ongoing research and care for patients is funded by generous donors.

Perseverance is the key to getting your fundraiser into shape

As the reigning champion of ringside fundraising, Coach Dennis has a few tips for bantamweight challengers looking to throw their hats in the ring. "You will have hard times at events," Dennis says. "Things don't always go right. We had events where only four people showed up to see Santa or only three teams came to play football. But you learn from what went wrong and keep moving forward."

After years of trial and error – and lots of successes – Dennis has moved right along to secure sponsorships from fitness vendors and retailers, including Performix, GNC and Fit Crunch, to supply awards and support publicity.

And no heavyweight champ could take the title without the help and support of friends and family. Dennis credits those closest to him for pitching in on every aspect of his events. From painting football fields to working volunteer tables to cooking and serving food – his team keeps everything running smoothly.

All the effort involved in bringing his special brand of fundraising to life comes down to making memories and inspiring people to come back next year. "I really hope people go home knowing they've helped kids – just by coming out and playing football or buying a hotdog."

Let's end childhood cancer together by signing up a team today!

In September, thousands of supporters from across the country come together for the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer. Interested in participating in one of the events in or near your city? Sign up today.

Other ways to help St. Jude

  • Gather volunteers to organize a silent auction or host a fundraising dinner to raise funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Thrivent members can apply to lead a Thrivent Action Team to access additional resources to help make their project a success.
  • Make a personal donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital through an online giving platform offered in partnership with InFaith Community Foundation. All processing fees will be covered by Thrivent so 100% of your donation will go to this important cause.
  • Eligible Thrivent Members can help children and their families by directing Choice Dollars® to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Not a member yet? Learn more about why Thrivent is different.