Photo by Sydney Cromwell.
Patrick Decker, Katie Crago, Emily Hornak and Adam Kelley pose inside one of the Jersey Mike’s locations that will be raising money this month for Children’s of Alabama.
Most people are fortunate never to know the difficulties of being a child in an extended hospital stay. But Patrick Decker knows the feeling well – before he was even in school, a blood disorder kept him in a hospital for a year.
Decker is now the owner of several Jersey Mike’s franchise locations in Hoover, Mountain Brook, Trussville, Opelika and a Vestavia store that opened in February. Each March, Jersey Mike’s franchisees across the country choose a local charity to support for the annual Month of Giving. Decker has participated for several years, giving to charities such as the Exceptional Foundation, the Lakeshore Foundation, Make-A-Wish and the Bell Center. This year, however, Decker felt it was time to choose a larger cause that’s close to his heart: pediatric cancer research at Children’s of Alabama.
“I’ve had my eyes on Children’s [of Alabama] for a long time,” Decker said. His stores also donated in December to Children’s Sugarplum Shop for families in the hospital on Christmas.
“This is the first year we had enough stores that we felt like we could make an impact,” said Katie Crago, Jersey Mike’s special events coordinator.
Representatives at Children’s were just as excited to make the new partnership. Emily Hornak, the director of cause marketing at Children’s, had tried unsuccessfully to get in touch with Decker prior to the Sugarplum Shop. Then she received an email from him asking to partner for the project.
“I couldn’t have been more excited,” Hornak said.
“I think she was doing cartwheels in the office,” agreed Children’s Manager of Communications Adam Kelley.
Decker’s Jersey Mike’s locations had the qualities that Children’s was looking for in a fundraising partner: a desire to give back to the community and strong local ties along with a large economic footprint in Birmingham.
“Children’s of Alabama has many opportunities to make an impact,” Hornak said. “We find that when we partner with a company like Jersey Mike’s, that we get so much more ability to connect with the community not just through fundraising, but through the awareness.”
Decker’s goal is to raise $100,000 throughout March for pediatric cancer research across his five stores. For those looking to participate, there will be several ways to give back.
Diners at Jersey Mike’s can give donations up to $3 at the register and receive a $1 off coupon in exchange, and 25 percent of proceeds from March catering orders will also be donated. Crago said Jersey Mike’s will be selling T-shirts with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Children’s, and an online auction, including trips and entertainment packages. This will be capped off by the Day of Giving on Wednesday, March 30, when 100 percent of sales will go to Children’s.
“We want the people who care about Children’s to invest in our business partners, and this is an opportunity for them to go support someone who is supporting us,” Hornak said.
Decker is taking a “no stone unturned” approach to getting the word out about the Month of Giving. Along with talking to regular and college newspapers and radio stations, Decker said he will also be mailing about 400,000 coupons out to area homes. The coupons will include special offers for those who bring them in and donate.
Hornak said the donations will go to research at Children’s and “soft services” for children being treated for cancer: social workers, child life specialists, art and music therapy and other “programs that we as a hospital provide because it is important to the care of the patient and to the whole family.”
“We’re really looking forward to working and making a statement to the community that Jersey Mike’s and Children’s are working together to make as much funds and awareness as we can,” Hornak said.
$100,000 is a big goal, but Decker is confident that his team will reach it. That’s due in part to the employees who are “very excited” to be supporting Children’s, and partly due to the customers at Jersey Mike’s.
“Jersey Mike’s is built off of regulars,” Decker said. “Seventy-five percent of our customers are people who eat here every other day. We know their names, our employees know what sandwich they want before they get out of the car. It’s just that type of family kind of push that we know they’re going to want to get involved.
“We know they want to do something like this, and that’s why they’ll come and eat at Jersey Mike’s to raise money,” he continued.
For more about the Month of Giving and how to get involved, visit onesubatatime.org.