A passion for serving others guides the family of Doug and Holly Brooks to help St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital find cures and save children.
“Service happens to you; hospitality happens for you,” Doug says. “It’s about making people feel special, and St. Jude is amazing at making kids and parents feel special. I call it ‘St. Jude Hospital hospitality.’”
The family’s St. Jude journey stemmed from Doug’s 36-year-career with Chili’s Grill and Bar. Doug worked his way up from restaurant manager to be named chairman of the board and CEO of Brinker International, the parent company of Chili’s, in 2004. Doug and Holly married in 1977, and they both worked at Chili’s in Dallas, where the restaurant originated. When they started a family, Holly became a full-time mom to sons Taylor and Kyle.
The Chili’s partnership with St. Jude began in 2002 when the restaurant was asked to support a Dallas fundraising event for the hospital.
“From that point on, I was able to watch my family and our Chili’s family fall in love with St. Jude,” Doug says. In 2006, Chili’s made a $50 million commitment to build the Chili’s Care Center with proceeds from its highly successful “Create-A-Pepper to fight childhood cancer” campaign held each September.
“The ribbon-cutting ceremony was very emotional,” Doug says, “seeing the name of the company where I spent my entire career on a building that would save children’s lives.”
In 2013, Doug retired, but the family’s personal involvement with St. Jude deepened. The couple and their sons visited St. Jude together for the first time in 2012.
“It was a life-changing experience, seeing how the children and their families equate Chili’s with hope,” Kyle says. Taylor adds, “The personal trip really changed everything in terms of how I think of St. Jude.”
Recently, the family made a generous personal donation to name the Proton Therapy Post Anesthesia Care Unit, which will be located in the St. Jude Red Frog Events Proton Therapy Center now being built on the hospital’s campus.
“My dad’s best friend died of a brain tumor. We were very close, and, unfortunately, that is what made all of this real for us,” Kyle says.
“I also have a good friend who had a brain tumor. Once you are touched by that,” adds Taylor, “everything happening at St. Jude takes on a whole new meaning.”
“We wanted to be part of the proton beam therapy because of how we have been touched by brain tumors,” Holly explains. “We love seeing our boys becoming involved, and we are so proud just to be a part of the work St. Jude is doing.”
Doug sums it up when he says, “It’s one thing to serve someone a meal, but it’s another to be involved with a company that is helping to solve the problem of pediatric cancer. Our success gave us that opportunity.”
Abridged from Promise, Summer 2014