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Ken Swimkosky made $1 per hour 50 years ago when he joined Brooks Brothers in the shipping department at the Pittsburgh store.
Today, Swimkosky, 71, is a Made-to-Measure Specialist at the same store with a strong base of clients whom he calls friends. He is also the top fundraiser within the Brooks Brothers chain for the St. Jude Thanks and Giving® campaign, raising more than $60,000 for the kids of St. Jude in the last five years.
“I just thought, ‘This is a grand way to end my career, by collecting money for children.’ My motto became ‘to save one child’s life,’ and I think about it all year round,” he said.
In fact, Swimkosky keeps a list of potential St. Jude donors and calls about 30 of them personally each year to request their donations. In 2012, he raised $21,456 for St. Jude and was recognized by Brooks Brothers with a tribute plaque at the hospital.
Swimkosky is always ready to share the mission of St. Jude. He wears his St. Jude lapel pin every day to work and often sports a St. Jude tie. “I talk about it all the time,” he said.
And he offers a personal touch for those who contribute to the St. Jude mission. One customer recently gave him $500 for the St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign, and Swimkosky purchased a Brooks Brothers’ St. Jude tie to send to the donor as a thank-you gift. Another customer made a $100 donation and with Swimkosky’s persuasion went on to purchase eight St. Jude ties.
A father of three and grandfather to four, Swimkosky says he has so much to give thanks for in his own life: a marriage of 47 years, the opportunity to travel, and time to spend with his family and enjoying his hobbies.
“When we reach a certain age and are thankful for what we have it becomes a feeling of great joy to give back,” he said. “Thanks and Giving is like Christmas to me.”
Swimkosky has visited St. Jude three times and was touched by artwork created by patients about their experience fighting cancer. “These poor children have no idea whatever happened to them or why. That’s why my drive is really to save one child’s life.”
His financial goal is to raise $100,000 for St. Jude before he retires, and he isn’t planning to retire any time soon.
“Brooks Brothers is my life and I consider our clients not as customers but as friends. To walk away would be very hard," he said. "I might consider it when I get to $100,000 for the children of St. Jude."
Kenneth Swimkosky passed away unexpectedly on Dec. 12, 2013. Brooks Brothers colleagues and customers are rallying to help him achieve his lifetime goal of raising $100,000 for St. Jude by directing donors to www.stjude.org/tgbrooksbrothers.