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Opening Doors to the Future

Inspired by the children of St. Jude, a Brooks Brothers doorman raises funds and awareness for the hospital.

By Richard J. Alley; Photos by Seth Dixon

It’s a long way from the farmlands of North Carolina to New York’s Madison Avenue. But for Ricky Bunting, doorman for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s partner Brooks Brothers, the idea of giving back is what connects the two.

“I was born in the South, so I learned to help others when they couldn’t help themselves,” he says. “I pitch in anywhere I can to try and help someone.” 

Ricky Bunting stands in front of the Brooks Brothers store.

Bunting has been meeting and greeting customers at the front door of the 200-year-old clothier since 2004, and he takes the privilege of raising money for St. Jude to heart. With little more than a friendly smile and charismatic nature, Bunting has raised $12,000 for St. Jude since 2008 through the generosity of Brooks Brothers’ guests.

“The unwavering support and commitment of people like Ricky and Brooks Brothers to the St. Jude mission are extraordinary and essential to helping our doctors and scientists continue their groundbreaking research that leads to lifesaving treatments,” says Marlo Thomas, St. Jude national outreach director. “Their actions, and those of the millions of supporters around the world, embody the spirit of the St. Jude Thanks and Giving® campaign and help ensure that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for anything—not for treatment, travel, housing or food—because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.”

Inspired by family

Bunting has three children and two grandchildren, and it’s with thoughts of his family that the 59-year-old makes the trek from his home in Brooklyn to the flagship store in Manhattan every day to greet customers. During June, November and December—through the St. Jude Father’s Day and Thanks and Giving campaigns—he raises money for the hospital.

When St. Jude opened the $20 million Brooks Brothers Computational Biology Center in the Kay Research and Care Center in 2015, company representatives traveled to Memphis for the ceremony. A special surprise awaited Bunting.

“As the doors open, I look to the right and there’s my picture on the wall,” he recalls. “I had tears in my eyes, I was so shocked.”

Ricky Bunting of Brooks Brothers smiles alongside St. Jude gifts that can be purchased.

Ricky Bunting

Generosity in the genes

Through the enthusiasm and dedication of its employees— and the generosity of its guests—Brooks Brothers has raised $16.5 million since 2005.

“Our partnership with St. Jude has evolved into a family affair here at Brooks Brothers. It is truly a part of our corporate DNA, and our associates are thoroughly engaged as ambassadors for the children,” says Emilie Antonetti, vice president, social purpose, and managing director of the Golden Fleece Foundation.

“Ricky has made it his mission to tell one and all who visit Brooks Brothers about St. Jude,” Antonetti continues. “He is not shy about engaging customers, telling them Danny Thomas’ story and asking for a donation … always with a smile and his special charm.”

No family should have to go through this, and I’m very proud of working for a company like this that gives back to kids who can’t help themselves.

Ricky Bunting

Extended family of supporters

Along with Brooks Brothers, more than 70 major brands are part of St. Jude Thanks and Giving, such as Best Buy, Kmart, Domino’s, Kay Jewelers®, HomeGoods, ANN INC., Chili’s, New York & Company, AutoZone, Williams-Sonoma Inc., Christopher & Banks, Dollar General, Marshall’s, Mazda, DXL, Claire’s, GNC and many more. 

Marlo Thomas with patients

Marlo Thomas, St. Jude national outreach director, prepares for this year’s St. Jude Thanks and Giving with (from left) Gabrielle Dedman, Aamir Banks and Trinity Cunningham.

In addition to generous corporate partners, St. Jude Thanks and Giving features celebrity supporters who donate their time to support St. Jude. This year, Jennifer Aniston, Sofia Vergara, Michael Strahan, Jimmy Kimmel, Luis Fonsi and Marlo Thomas will appear alongside St. Jude patients in the ads. A movie trailer featuring these stars will also appear on theater screens nationwide at Regal Entertainment Group, AMC, Marcus Theaters and many others.

Making memories

As exciting as it was for Bunting to step off the elevator at St. Jude and see his photo, it was meeting with patients that left him with his most indelible memory.

“I was a little nervous at first because I’m very emotional with kids,” he says. “I met these two young ladies—two sisters—and one asked what we were doing there. I told her, ‘We work for Brooks Brothers, and we try to raise more money each year for St. Jude.’ And she said, ‘I want to thank you, because the hospital saved my life twice.’

“That’s something I’ll never forget.” 

From Promise, Autumn 2017

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