Towns and cities across the United States were covered in green for St. Patrick’s Day, but in many Jack’s in the Southeast, things had already been green for a month.
For 14 years, Jack’s has actively participated in the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Shamrocks Against Dystrophy campaign. This year, Jack’s restaurants raised an unprecedented $119,594, helping the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Greater Alabama surpass its goal of $220,000.
“This is the first single sponsor we’ve ever had to raise $100,000 for the Shamrocks program,” says Terri Wilson, executive director of the MDA of Greater Alabama. “They broke the threshold.”
Jack’s chairman of the board Benny M. LaRussa is honored for Jack’s to have been a leader in raising money for MDA.
“Jack’s is proud to be a part of each and every community in which we operate,” LaRussa says. “We are glad that we can give back to such a worthwhile cause.”
The four‐week campaign began Feb. 20, 2012. During the campaign, associates at supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants, and other businesses asked customers to buy a $1 green shamrock or $5 gold shamrock to Make a Muscle and Make a Difference for MDA. Customers sign the mobiles, which are then displayed on store windows, walls, and ceilings.
For most people, the shamrock is a symbol of luck.
“In my mind, the shamrock’s three leaves represent the past, present, and the future,” Wilson says. “The past being the tireless work of many researchers and doctors have done to find the many causes of muscular dystrophy; the present representing the many partnerships and relationships that keep our dreams alive; and the future being without any form of muscular dystrophy.”
“But to our families, MDA shamrocks represent so much more. We recognize that it’s the commitment from leaders like Jack’s and their great customers that gives our program such a meaningful impact in each community.”
In the opening week last year, Jack’s had raised $23,000. This year, Jack’s raised $40,000 in the first week.
“We knew we were on track to this being a successful year when Jack’s came out that strong,” Wilson says. “It’s been a neat ride to just watch it. They have the best people ever to work with.”
Jack’s is one of 50 companies participating in the campaign across Alabama. The company always yields big results, and it is because Jack’s expands the program by going into the community for the cause.
“One of the things that makes Jack’s different is that they do special events – they really operate in the public,” Wilson says. “They don’t just sell the shamrocks for a dollar. They’re raising money for families where they are.”
Dale Seals, area manager for Jack’s in north central Alabama, has seen his stores put on bake sales, gift basket raffles, and yard sales to raise money for the campaign.
“The pie‐in‐the‐face has also been a very successful fundraiser,” Seals says. “Especially when employees are paying to put a pie in their manager’s face.”
Some Jack’s go as far as creating an entire day dedicated to the cause.
Carla Grego, area supervisor over five locations in Alabama, hosted MDA Day at the Jack’s in Centre, Alabama. More than 1,500 people attended and participated in space jumps, bake sales, hamburger‐eating contests, and gift raffles for prizes such as a 2009 University of Alabama National Championship cap signed by Trent Richardson and former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.
“We go beyond just selling hamburgers and milkshakes and use our organization to help kids who need something besides good food,” Grego says.
Another area manager, Shirley Ozbirn, says employees in her seven stores take the program on themselves, using their own personal resources to create Easter baskets to raffle off. That good nature, in turn, has impacted the community.
“The people in Muscle Shoals are the best,” Ozbirn says. “Some of those people come to Jack’s every day, and every time they come in, they give money for MDA. Even if the employee forgets to ask them to give, they do it anyway.”
Seals, Grego, and Ozbirn all agree the program is important to Jack’s employees and their surrounding communities because they all want to help people, especially children.
The MDA Shamrocks campaign raises funds to support MDA’s fight against muscular dystrophy and related diseases, including its programs of research, services, advocacy, and education. Jack’s team members and customers focus on sending kids to Alabama Special Camp for Children and Adults (ASCCA), where children with muscle diseases can enjoy a week of accessible fun at the end of June.
“There is a wide variety of progression at the camp with some kids walking and some in chairs, but a sponsor is there with each child for the entire week to take care of all their needs, and each child gets that independent experience of going to camp,” Wilson says. “The cost is $800 per kid, and through the funds raised this year, Jack’s will be able to send 149 kids to camp.”
“Jack’s associates have attended the MDA Summer Camp program at Camp ASCCA for many years,” says Jack’s Director of Marketing, Pam Measel. “This program is so incredible and allows the children to do things they would never do. We are so glad to be able to assist this program.”
The MDA Shamrocks Against Dystrophy campaign started in 1982 and is the nation’s largest charity‐related fundraiser associated with St. Patrick’s Day. It is the No. 1 program for raising funds in Central Alabama.