Most kids don’t spend their free time raising money for cancer treatment and research, but 11-year old Hollis has used her talent for juggling soccer balls to earn tens of thousands of dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Hollis says the past few years of fundraising for Juggling for Jude have taught her that “if you start small and keep at something, it just might turn into something big and very meaningful!” We went behind the scenes with Hollis to learn more.
Q: Your goal isn’t to just keep the ball in the air, you hold yourself to strict rules: you have to alternate feet and you can’t use your thighs. Why did you throw in that extra challenge?
When I started Juggling for Jude, I was trying to learn how to juggle as well as possible. My soccer coach at the time told me that if I wanted to be better at juggling, I should master using both feet and shouldn’t count my thighs. Using both feet is important because it develops your ability to use both feet when playing soccer, and not counting thighs is important because thighs are a lot easier. Also, you don’t use your thighs as much during games! I wanted my juggling to be as challenging as possible, because the harder it is, the more money people will donate!
Q: You just beat your record of 1,085 juggles by getting 1,646 juggles. Congrats! You said it took 17 minutes and 14 seconds. What’s going through your mind? How do you stay focused for that whole time?
I like to think about what I’m doing for the kids with St. Jude and how the juggles can have a positive impact on kids’ lives. I also like to just think about the ball tapping on my feet, to help me gain control of the ball. When I’m going for high numbers, I try to just relax in the rhythm of the juggles, because it takes a long time and can be really hard to keep focused and not get really tired!
Q: What’s the next number you want to hit?
I guess now my goal is 2,000!
Q: All the money you raise goes to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Have you had the chance to visit and see the money you’ve raised in action?
No, I haven’t visited and need to wait till I’m 13, because of St. Jude’s visitor rules. However, I have had the opportunity to meet and become friends with a girl my age named Kayla who is from a nearby town and was treated for brain cancer at St. Jude. She and I have done some special events together, and getting to know her has allowed me to experience the importance of St. Jude’s mission up close! I feel so lucky to know Kayla and am thankful for the doctors who have saved her life!
Q: What do your friends/classmates/teammates think about what you’re doing?
Everyone thinks it’s a really cool project and many of their parents have donated, so I’m very grateful for that. They often tell me that it inspires them to see me working so hard at something for so long, especially for such a great cause.
Q: Some pro players have also been involved. How did you get the attention of Julie Foudy, Kelley O’Hara, and Shea Salinas, and how were they able to help out?
Most of the connections we make are because of my mom working on social media and reaching out to people directly. The woman who runs Julie Foudy’s soccer leadership camp for girls saw a post about Juggling for Jude last summer, so she and my mom got in touch, and I got to be a presenter at the camp, which was really cool! With Kelley O’Hara, my mom emailed her agent, and it turned out that Kelley thought it was a great project, so she took the Juggling for Jude Challenge! Shea Salinas has always been a supporter of St. Jude, and we got connected with him through our work with the local St. Jude fundraising office. I even got to juggle with his whole team (San Jose Earthquakes) and on the field at one of their games. It was amazing!
Q: Tell us about the “Juggling for Jude Challenge” and how you went from juggling on your own to getting other people involved.
The Juggling for Jude Challenge is when other kids (and adults) juggle to help support Juggling for Jude. The idea is to get a record for the day and then donate a dollar or dime or nickel per juggle at jugglingforjude.com/donate. You can video your juggling (like I do) and post your best juggle on Instagram, using the hashtag #jugglingforjude and tagging me @Juggling_for_Jude. That way I know who you are and what you’ve done! It’s kind of like the Ice Bucket Challenge two summers ago, but I think it’s more fun!
The people at St. Jude always say that awareness is as important as money. So one of my missions is raising awareness of the amazing work being done at St. Jude, and the JFJ Challenge helps make that happen! It also gets people involved in a way that is manageable–it’s just one juggling outing and a donation, and they’ve made a difference.
Q: That’s pretty awesome to have a bunch of people rallying with you. What does it feel like to have so many others believe in your mission, too?
It makes me feel like I’ve done something good and that I’ve made an impact for kids with cancer. Having people appreciate what I’ve done makes me feel great about the effort I’ve put in so far and inspires me to keep working hard. Honestly, there are some days when I’m really tired, or the weather is really hot or really cold, and it’s hard to get out there and juggle. But knowing there are people behind me who support the effort makes all the difference. I also know that the kids with cancer at St. Jude don’t get a break, so that keeps me going, too! Having people donate and tell me I’m doing something inspiring or meaningful makes it all worthwhile!
Anything we missed?
I just want to take the chance to thank everyone who has ever donated to Juggling for Jude. Without the money coming in, my juggling would not be as meaningful! So thank you to all of the generous people who have supported my mission.