October 5, 2021


By Diana Award recipient, Hollis Belger from California, USA

Hollis first began raising funds and awareness for cancer at age nine, when she used her unique skill of juggling a football with her feet to help others.

Hollis first began raising funds and awareness for cancer at age nine, when she used her unique skill of juggling a football with her feet to help others. Seven years later, Hollis has dedicated over 700 hours to philanthropic missions, raising over $500,000 through her juggling and outreach. Her global ‘Juggling for Jude Challenge’ launched in June 2020 and raised $50,000 alone for ‘St Jude Children’s Research Hospital’. An engaging and passionate public speaker, Hollis connects with global audiences to raise funds and awareness around childhood cancer and inspire others to take action for causes of their choosing.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a global leader in the fight against paediatric cancer and other catastrophic childhood illnesses. The hospital’s founder, Danny Thomas, spearheaded fundraising for his mission by collecting coins throughout his neighbourhood. Later, he famously said, “I would rather have a million people give me a dollar than one give me a million. That way you’ve got a million people involved.”

The legacy of Danny Thomas and other leaders like him inspire philanthropic engagement in people worldwide. From Princess Diana to Audrey Hepburn, those who made it their life’s mission to make the world better live on in the rest of us. One such pioneer in giving was Mother Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu. Born in 1910 in the Ottoman Empire, she later became a Catholic nun in India, where she created orphanages and hospice homes for people suffering from poverty and leprosy, among other conditions. During her lifetime, Mother Teresa’s congregation and its charitable mission expanded across the globe, until her death on September 5th, 1997. Her contributions led the Hungarian Parliament and Government to establish International Day of Charity in her honour in 2011. A year later, the United Nations marked it as an international holiday and day of civic engagement.

Hollis spreads her message about the importance of youth engagement to students in her community in person, and around the country in virtual meetings.

Today is a great time to reflect on the importance and benefits of meaningful philanthropic engagement, especially for young people. Finding purpose through the development of a connection to something personally meaningful and externally impactful provides a foundation for a passionate and purposeful adult life. William Damon, Professor of Education at Stanford University, has spent years researching and advocating for the development of purpose, which he defines as “a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at once meaningful to the self and of consequence to the world beyond the self.” Damon and his colleagues have found that adolescents who are encouraged to seek purpose, through explicit education or other modes of guidance, are happier, more motivated, and more emotionally grounded than those without a sense of purpose. They “show high degrees of religiosity, consolidated identities, and deeper senses of meaning than those who do not experience purpose. In addition, the value of purpose to the self continues well beyond the adolescent period—indeed, throughout the rest of the life-span.”

When I was eight, I started learning to juggle a soccer ball on my feet in order to improve my skills as a player. When my mom told me about childhood cancer and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, I wanted to use my juggling skills to help. A research project on St. Jude sealed my commitment, and I started a fundraiser I called “Juggling for Jude.” Seven years later, with more than $510,000 raised through the help of more than 5,000 donors, volunteers, and jugglers on six continents, I’m still at it, and my work has given my childhood endless purpose.

A favourite hobby like soccer-juggling can be turned into a global mission to fight childhood cancer. Anything is possible!

When considering ways to engage, it is often best to begin by volunteering and connecting with established organizations addressing problems that inspire you. Whether it’s children’s healthcare, global access to clean water, political engagement, equity and diversity, or other causes, there is something for everyone! Existing organizations typically have ways for new supporters to become involved, get educated, and even find mentorship. Committing to a single cause can often allow for more meaningful and sustained engagement than jumping from one cause to another.

If you are especially inspired and want to start some sort of independent fundraiser or advocacy or other efforts, I recommend starting small.

  • Think about your personal resources (skills, talents, interests) and your social network.
  • Research a cause you want to support. Find out everything you can about the issues involved and the avenues for outreach.
  • Gather a few friends to help.
  • Reach out to adults for support in whatever ways you need it.
  • Set small goals for your outreach and celebrate each milestone. Long-term impact doesn’t happen overnight. True philanthropic engagement time. If you sustain your interest and keep working, your efforts will expand organically.

September 5th is a great day to honour Mother Teresa’s mission and align ourselves with a cause. We need the adults of the world to teach, encourage, mentor, and support the younger generation in their quest to reach out! Together, in the spirit of Danny Thomas gathering supporters, we can make the world better!

If this blog interests you, I’ll be giving a TED Talk on cultivating teen purpose through philanthropic outreach on September 18, 2021! You can register to watch here.

RELATED Blog Posts