Jack's raises $119,174 for MDA, becomes largest contributor for second year in a row.

Published April 18, 2013


While changing seasons have the region turning green, things at Jack’s have been green since February from company-wide efforts to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) of Greater Alabama’s Shamrocks Against Dystrophy Campaign. This is Jack’s 15th year to participate in the St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser that raises funds to support MDA’s fight against muscular dystrophy and related diseases, including its programs of research, services, advocacy and education.

The St. Patrick's Day fundraiser is supported by restaurants, bars, retailers and businesses to help people with neuromuscular diseases.

This year, Jack’s contributed $119,174 of Greater Alabama’s $425,000 raised, becoming MDA’s highest fundraising entity in the state for the second year in a row and positioning Greater Alabama as the no. 1 office in the southeast division of Shamrocks. 

“One of the things that makes Jack’s different is that they do special events – they really operate in the public,” Greater Alabama MDA Executive Director Terri Wilson said. “They don’t just sell the shamrocks for a dollar. They’re raising money for families where they are.” 

This year, Jack’s Area Managers Diane Roden and Kathy VanZant hosted the company’s highest grossing event, the MDA Poker Run. The event, now in its fifth year, raised more than $5,000 in one day.

“People look forward to this event every year. They know it’s coming the third Saturday in March, and they prepare,” said Roden. “This year’s run was wonderful for us. We had great support from the Jasper community and surrounding areas, from participants to donations.”

The poker tournament hosted more than 150 participants who paid $20 per bike to ride in the race. Part of the success came from the $1,500 grand prize being donated back by the winner. In addition, generous donations by local companies and individuals raised thousands of dollars at a private auction. Items included a football signed by Bo Jackson, a celebrity-autographed T-shirt from Bo Bikes Bama, an electric guitar and personal paintings of everything from scenery to Harley Davidson motorcycles.

“We’re part of the community, and the community is part of us. We’re family,” said Roden. “It was the customer and the entire crew together who went out and raised money.”

Even with such success, Roden’s stores went even further in their mission to raise money for MDA.

“You have to do a lot to raise money. There is lots of personal time poured into MDA on top of everyone’s’ work schedules,” said Roden. “We are very competitive and want to be number one, so we came up with some new things to help raise money a little quicker.”

Roden’s stores would host bake sales in which customers would help bake goods, then purchase what they had made. In Gardendale, Jack’s General Manager Tammy Parker raised $4,100 by raffling off a hand-made Alabama dog house, making gift baskets, and selling 100 dozen donuts each Saturday in March.

“When you walk into Tammy’s store, it looks like you’re walking into a leprechaun cave,” said Roden. “Employees are wearing hats and vests that they have made. Everywhere is green. One employee dressed up like a leprechaun, and customers would give him big bucks because his personality was so big.”

Roden’s area even wore MDA T-shirts at yard sales to quickly let the buyers know what they were supporting.

“The Baby Boomers still remember Jerry’s Kids where Jerry Lewis would host the MDA telethon. Once they connected Jerry’s Kids with what we were doing for MDA, they wanted to help,” Roden said.

Area manager Kathy VanZant remembers watching her cousin with muscular schlerosis participate in Jerry’s Kids when they were younger.

“He got such a thrill out of the telethon,” said VanZant. “When I came back to Jack’s and we started participating in the MDA drive, I made it my mission to make sure that as many kids as possible benefitted from fundraising like he did.”

VanZant and her team hosted this year’s Womanless Beauty Pageant at Jasper’s Memorial Park Natatorium. Nine contestants competed for Prettiest Eyes, Prettiest Smile, Prettiest Hair, Most Photogenic and Best Dressed.

“It was hilarious,” said VanZant. “Our judges were real Cullman County beauty pageant judges. They had a blast and said they wanted to do it again next year.”

VanZant came up with the idea after watching her son participate in a womanless pageant in school that benefited cancer. In addition to entry fees, she charged admission at the door and hosted local artists selling their work at the event.

VanZant’s stores also hosted the annual MDA Car Show in Jasper, which attracts participation from car club members and businesses all over the state. In addition to the car show and pageant, her four stores raised several hundred dollars with pie-in-the-face events, totaling $11,000.

Some stores around the state raised money through partnerships with elementary schools, hosting penny drives and awarding classrooms with free breakfast from Jack’s. Regional Director Betty Hamrick encouraged her stores to make an extra effort to ask for donations.

“We just tried to do a great job of asking every customer to participate. I find that most people are happy to do so when given the opportunity,” said Hamrick. “Personally, even though we were raising funds for MDA at Jack's, I purchased shamrocks from both Hardee's and Lowes just because their employee's ask me to, and I believe our customers are the same way. All it takes is asking.”

Jack’s company-wide results reflect Jack’s mission to help the community. Greater Alabama MDA Executive Director Terri Wilson said it was another banner year for Jack’s.

“Our office waits in such anticipation each week as we receive sales reports from Jacks. The numbers are staggering,” said Wilson. “It is so overwhelming the dedication and support given to MDA, from the corporate office to the store team members. Our families are so grateful to Jacks for their unwavering generosity.”

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.

“Jack’s associates have attended the MDA Summer Camp program at Camp ASCCA for many years,” said 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.”  

Betty Hamrick’s Region 3 raised $60,383, Jimmy Mize’s Region 1 raised $30,019, and Taylor Kitchens’s Region 2 raised $28,772.

The top three areas were led by Sheila Parnell’s Area 6, which raised $11,921, Kathy Vanzant’s Area 1, which raised $11,040, and Brenda Gaines’s Area 16, which raised $10,679.

Jack’s Petersville location raised $5,620, which is the most money raised in one individual store.

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 currently the number one program for raising funds in Central Alabama. 

For more information about Jack’s and the MDA Shamrocks Against Dystrophy campaign, please contact Lizzy Thomas at (601) 540‐3302 or by E‐mail at elizcthomas@gmail.com. 




About Jack’s Family Restaurants, Inc.  

Jack’s Family Restaurants, Inc. was started in 1960 in Homewood, Ala. The restaurant specializes in fresh burgers, crinkle‐cut fries and hand‐dipped shakes. Jack’s has more than 100 stores across the Southeast with locations in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia. Since 1960, many things have changed in our world, but one thing has remained the same: Jack’s is still serving up great food, with a smile.