Three years ago, Hollis Belger turned her skill at juggling a soccer ball into a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Now, Hollis, who just turned 12, has raised more than $100,000 for the hospital through her program, Juggling for Jude, and has her sights set on getting other kids involved.
“I want to continue to do this because I think we can make it so that kids around the world can participate in Juggling for Jude,” Hollis said. “I don’t want to stop. I want to keep doing it so that kids with cancer can be saved, and we can raise more money for St. Jude.”
Hollis, who lives in Larkspur, California, began raising money by taking pledges for each juggle she completed before the soccer ball hit the ground. She has become so adept at juggling that most all of the pledges she now receives are no longer tied to the number of juggles. In July, Hollis recorded a personal-best 1,646 consecutive juggles — 17 minutes and 14 seconds of juggling a soccer ball without it hitting the ground.
Her efforts have gained attention from some of soccer’s most successful athletes. Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Kelly O’Hara, Tristan Bowen and Yael Averbuch have all promoted Hollis’ efforts on social media, and Hollis has appeared at games of the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer to juggle on the field. She is also working toward a relationship with a soccer-related brand to spread Juggling for Jude to a wider audience.
Although Hollis had no personal connection with St. Jude when she began fundraising for the hospital, she has since become friends with a St. Jude patient from California. The two met through Juggling for Jude.
“She is a survivor and an inspiration to me,” Hollis said. “Every time I visit her I almost want to cry because what her family has been through is unbelievable, and to see that they are all still smiling is incredible.”
Hollis said she is motivated to help St. Jude because families never receive a bill from the hospital for treatment, travel, housing or food. “They treat kids with cancer free of charge, and they are working extremely hard to find a cure for cancer,” Hollis said. “It is just an amazing hospital.”
Hollis said kids of any age can support a cause close to their hearts. “You just have to set your mind to something, be really into your cause, have a parent back you up, and you can start something amazing and change the world.”