Juggling, in the soccer sense, is a simple skill to learn but a hard one to master. St. Jude supporter Hollis Belger has not only mastered it, kicking her way to a personal best 4,202 consecutive juggles, she has turned her soccer passion into a much bigger purpose: helping the children at St. Jude. She has raised raised $420,000 and counting.
I was a 9-year-old California girl who loved soccer and was pretty good at juggling — you know, keeping the ball in the air using mostly just your feet but never your hands.
What’s that have to do with helping kids with cancer more than 2,000 miles away at St. Jude?
A lot, as my story will show. At my mom’s suggestion I started Juggling for Jude, a small fundraiser with a simple premise: I’d juggle a soccer ball in return for donations to St. Jude. It would give me a chance to do what I loved, while also supporting sick children I’d probably never even meet.
Then I met a few. My second summer of juggling, I met Kayla, who was still fighting brain cancer and struggling with the side effects of treatment. We were just a few months apart in age and had a mutual friend. We hit it off — a friendship was born and my desire to fundraise, my devotion to St. Jude, had deepened.
Then I met Chandler when I was 12 and visiting St. Jude to receive an award for my fundraising. He was 18 and, like Kayla, was treated for brain cancer. He had such an amazing sense of humor, and when we were speakers for St. Jude at a big event, he was so inspirational.
And I met C.J., who has a rare type of leukemia. He’s just 5, but we bonded over soccer. He loves the sport as much as I do.
Along the way, that 9-year-old girl with a gift for juggling became this 15-year-old who has found her purpose in the world. The little fundraising project that started the summer before fifth grade has brought in $420,000. It’s grown in scope — speaking engagements, juggling and skills clinics, sales of a special Juggling for Jude ball, and local, national and even international media appearances, all for the cause of St. Jude.
The COVID-19 virus may have slowed my efforts, but it hasn’t stopped them. My parents have a small business that’s been closed since mid-March because of the pandemic. But I’m still doing what I can, from virtual juggling lessons to a social media video encouraging people to follow my lead of putting money I’d otherwise be spending at the movies or out with friends into a jar for St. Jude.
As I said in one post: #ChildhoodCancer doesn’t shelter in place. @stjude needs our support more than ever!