My inspiration for giving back came in a tiny package. Doing my part to help children beat the odds is personal for me because of my little cousin. She’s 7 and is living with autism.
As a soccer-loving family, we wanted her and kids like her to get the opportunity to play and have fun. What started as a group of kids and parents just getting together, ended up as a non-profit soccer league for children with physical and developmental disabilities. Being a part of the children’s journey to make a goal or inch across the soccer field changed my life and gave me a sense of purpose.
Two years ago, I made some big life decisions. I moved to Dallas, leaving my family and my job behind. It was important to me to find a new opportunity that brought a sense of purpose. During my job search, I learned about Chili’s and their commitment to raise $50 million for the kids of St. Jude. I had to learn more about this company.
Today, I’m a proud ChiliHead and recently had the chance to volunteer at our annual Chili’s Cookout – serving the patients, families and staff of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
St. Jude’s doesn’t feel like a hospital at all. It is colorful and bright, decorated with patient paintings, pictures and quotes on every wall. When a family arrives here, they are greeted with open arms and told to put their checkbooks away. It costs $2 million dollars a day to operate St. Jude’s, but families never have to pay a dime.
Researchers and doctors pass in the hallways, excited to talk about their groundbreaking discoveries. Everywhere you look, there are amazing kids being chauffeured around in little red wagons. Seeing it in person is emotional and inspiring.
I was never as proud as when I saw the Chili’s Care Center. I can only describe it as breathtaking. The Chili’s Care Center is an eight-floor, 340,000-square-foot tower where all major program activities take place. It is the first facility of its kind, designed to discover today’s best therapies and tomorrow’s new cures.
This is a building where miracles happen – because of the time, passion and commitment that each Chili’s Team Member puts into the St. Jude Campaign every year. The Care Center will live on as a legacy that thousands of ChiliHeads have built. We are literally saving lives.
As I stand in awe, a girl comes up to me, looking at me with big blue eyes. She and her mom were in the waiting area, coloring. This little angel, who is no more than five and clearly battling through chemo, asks: “Can you help me? I’m not sure if I should color this pink or purple? What do you think?” She was coloring a unicorn. It took all I had to say “Pink!” without choking up. She flashed a huge smile and ran to her mom. “I told you, Mom! PINK!” She giggles back to her mom, happy that a stranger settled the debate.
These children are fighters. They are brave. They have the most amazing spirits. This is why we do what we do.
This month, we kick off the #CreateAPepper Campaign in all of our restaurants. I can’t help but think how grateful I am to be a ChiliHead and see firsthand how purpose can find its way into the lives of so many.
Adriana S, Chili’s Team Member