A 9- year-old girl with a talent for juggling a soccer ball spent her summer break raising more than $30,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Starting July 1, Hollis Belger of Larkspur, California, juggled for up to an hour every day, ultimately reaching an amazing 461 juggles on August 29, the last official day of her summer project, which she called Juggling for Jude.
Hollis has been playing soccer since she was 3 years old. Last fall, she joined a competitive team and learned to juggle the ball in practice.
Hollis' mom, Allison Belger, said it became clear pretty quickly that her daughter had a knack for juggling. The idea for the fundraiser came after a video of Hollis juggling posted on Belger’s Facebook page received a huge response.
The Belgers don’t have a personal connection to St. Jude, but Belger said she has always had a fondness for the hospital’s mission.
It makes me feel like I’ve done my part, I’ve been good and I’ve made a difference in the world.
“I can remember as a kid being really moved by the St. Jude commercials on TV and always begging my parents to contribute,” she said. “This, for me, has been a great way to give back and have my own child learn such a valuable lesson.”
The lesson came in the form of hard work and dedication. Hollis juggled every day, even when dance camp, soccer practice and a vacation were on her summer schedule.
Belger created a blog about the fundraiser to encourage donations and kept Twitter and Facebook updates coming every other day. Hollis told her mom what to write, but Belger said she did the actual updating.
A tweet from retired professional soccer star Mia Hamm boosted Hollis’ profile, as did tweets from other members of the U.S. women’s national team. And family, friends and members of the Belger’s CrossFit gym community in Larkspur, outside of San Francisco, rallied to the cause, bringing in most of the money raised.
A real test of Hollis’ commitment to the fundraiser came after she broke her toe at dance camp. Belger said she was able to push through, even though there were a few days when she did significantly fewer juggles than normal.
“She had a broken toe and was still fighting through it,” Belger said, “but that’s nothing compared to what the kids at St. Jude are fighting through.”
Hollis said the support of her family was critical to her success. She said her summer project was harder than she expected — and admits to being a bit relieved it’s over – but she’s thrilled with her accomplishment.
“It makes me feel really proud and really confident about myself,” Hollis said. “It makes me feel like I’ve done my part, I’ve been good and I’ve made a difference in the world."