Texarkana, as the name implies, is a city that sits squarely on the border of Texas and Arkansas, nearly 300 miles away from Memphis, Tennessee. It’s a four-hour drive by car, and an even tougher ride in the heat of the summer if you’re traveling by motorcycle. Nevertheless, 35 participants in the “Cruisin’ for St. Jude” motorcycle ride traveled the distance from Texarkana to Memphis to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where doctors send their toughest cases because St. Jude has the world’s best survival rates for some of the most aggressive childhood cancers.
Along the way, Pizza Hut was there for the third consecutive year to lend support to the riders—and to do a bit of fundraising of our own.
The Talimena Rally kicked things off over Memorial Day weekend, with over 600 bikers participating in shorter group rides and enjoying live music, meals and more. The rally—sponsored by Pizza Hut—raised over $21,000, of which $3600 came from 36 Pizza Hut restaurants in the Shreveport region. One woman deserves special recognition: Mary Petty, a Restaurant General Manager (RGM) in Texarkana who helped pull the whole event together, putting an immense amount of time and energy into coordinating the logistics of the rally. Nikki Commerford, Pizza Hut Area Coach, recognizes Mary as the glue that holds together the operation: Mary helped set up routes best for the riders to visit restaurants, as well as helped promote the fundraiser to the 36 restaurants in the area.
Cruisin’ for St. Jude riders raise funds throughout the year and at smaller events, and on weekends and shorter rides frequently stop at Pizza Hut restaurants to refresh and raise money. Team members are ready and waiting to help them refuel with slices and sodas. In the three years Pizza Hut has been partnering with rally organizers, the restaurants have cumulatively raised over $15,000, and team members know to expect some hungry riders. Nikki and Steve Cavaliere, the Region Coach, partner with the other Area Coaches and Restaurant General Managers like Mary Petty to mobilize the restaurants’ full resources on behalf of St. Jude because the majority of St. Jude funding comes from individual contributions, which allows St. Jude the freedom to focus on what matters most – saving kids regardless of their financial situation. “It’s a lot of moving parts to coordinate,” Steve says, “but the passion and heart of the team really shine through.”
The Talimena Rally originated as restaurants in the region were looking for a cause to which they could have real, positive impact. A former Area Coach was connected to the cause, and helped promote St. Jude to team members and restaurants across the region. Team members are deeply passionate about St Jude; all donations to the hospital go directly to supporting the patients and families of St. Jude. More importantly, families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food, because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
This year was another banner effort from the restaurants and the rally organizers, and as the riders reached Memphis in June, they surpassed last year’s fundraising effort by more than $1,000. A big shout out to the team members and partners who brought their huge hearts and went above and beyond to make this year’s rally a success!