Growing up, Terry Dehkes of Minnesota watched his grandma take care of children who needed a home or a place to stay. “I was taught to give back and love kids.”
As Dehkes neared retirement, he wanted to do something to support the kids of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“I’ve been a St. Jude Partner in Hope for years,” said Dehkes, which means he’s a devoted monthly giver to St. Jude.
But he wanted to do even more.
“My friends and daughter drove bikes and told me about different motorcycle rallies,” said Dehkes. “I learned about the best part of the rallies and found ways to make it my own.”
Dehkes started Cruisin’ for St. Jude in 2011, bringing together motorcycle enthusiasts for a day of riding, lunch and raising funds to end childhood cancer.
Soon after, a chance meeting let him know he’d taken the right path in launching his fundraiser.
When Dehkes was connecting with the Target store in Roseville, Minnesota, for donations to support the event, he met Debbie Witschen, store manager and unbeknownst to Dehkes, a St. Jude mom.
“As I started talking to Debbie about the event, I didn’t know that her son, Dylan, was treated at St. Jude and had recently passed,” said Dehkes.
When Dehkes found out, “I knew that I had to do more to help families like the Witschens,” he said.
“Before Dylan died, he made us promise that we would keep raising money for St. Jude so that no other child went through what he did,” said Witschen. “I’m thankful for Terri and the impact that Cruisin’ for St. Jude has. He truly is one of the most amazing people, and he does this out of the goodness of his heart.”
Over the years, Dehkes and the Witschen family developed a friendship and community of support for St. Jude.
“I consider us to be family,” said Dehkes. “Someday we are going to beat this.”
Over the years, Cruisin’ for St. Jude has continued to grow. “Our raffle is our biggest fundraiser. We sold 2,900 tickets last year,” said Dehkes. “People tell me what a great job I did, but it’s hard to hear that. This isn’t about me. It’s about the kids.”
Cruising for St. Jude has created a community of volunteers, patient families, and supporters. “I invite anyone to join us for the event, to volunteer, and to help us treat and defeat childhood cancer,” said Terry. “I love what I do.”