Ashlee Smith, Ashlee’s Toy Closet, Reno NV
Ericka Smith nominated her daughter, writing, “Our daughter founded her nonprofit organization at the age of 8 after losing everything in our house fire. Her dad is a firefighter, and he was out on The Angora fire and sent photos of burned toys. This sparked Ashlee’s Toy Closet. Ashlee told us she knew how those kids felt and she had to help!"
For 15 years, Smith, a recent college graduate, has been collecting and donating toys all over the world to children who have lost everything in fires or natural disasters.
“When my dad sent the pictures from the big forest fire in Tahoe and I saw the burnt toys, I remember how I felt after our fire and I wanted to do something,” Smith said. “What is the most important thing for kids? Toys!”
To date, Ashlee’s Toy Closet has distributed more than 5 million toys to those impacted by fires – whether single home or widespread forest fires.
Janelle Towne, Home 2 Home Project, Downers Grove IL
It all started back in 2016, when Janelle Towne contacted a friend who was executive director of a local homeless shelter to see if her seventh grade daughter could get some service hours.
She learned of two young girls who had been living in the shelter with their parents. Christmas was coming so she asked to get the girls’ Christmas lists. She invited friends to her home, asking them to bring gift cards, wrapping paper and tape so that this mother would be able to shop for her children and experience the joy of picking out gifts and wrapping them herself.
They ended up with nearly $5,000 in gift cards and 25 rolls of wrapping paper, enough for every family at the shelter to buy gifts for their families.
“Later, I learned that when homeless people are leaving shelters and getting back on their feet, they usually move into an empty apartment with nothing more than an air mattress,” said Towne, a mother of five.
She also learned that, according to Illinois HUD data, after six months, half are back at the shelter.
That’s when Home 2 Home’s mission began: to furnish the homes of formerly homeless families by repurposing gently used furniture and household items.
Kenneth Isaacson, Kid Santa, Kalamazoo Mich
Isaacson started Kid Santa in 2018 when he was just 17 years old. “It was meant to be a one-time thing to help kids take their minds off being in the system at Christmas,” Isaacson said. “Now we have seen explosive growth.”
Last year, was the first time Isaacson and his team delivered gifts across the entire state of Michigan, driving 1,000 miles in a single night to “bring Santa to life,” ensuring wrapped gifts arrive on Christmas morning.
“Picking kids is the hardest part,” said Isaacson. “There are more people needing help in the world than people to give help.” Still Isaacson estimates that in the past four years, he has given out over 700 gifts and says Jersey Mike’s grant will help him reach even more. His goal for Christmas 2022 is to reach 1,000 children.
Kia Green, Building Futures Inc., Los Angeles CA
Green grew up in Philadelphia where she attended the Philadelphia High School for Creative & Performing Arts and Temple University where she obtained her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing.
After graduating, she moved to Los Angeles where she struggled after being laid off. Yet Green knew she had to chase her purpose of working with at-risk kids. In 2010, she registered Building Futures as a nonprofit which now serves L.A. County and surrounding areas.
“It all came together during the worst time in my life,” said Green, who has since earned her master’s degree in Nonprofit Management and Leadership.
“Teens want to be heard and have a voice,” said Green. “I try to motivate and push them. They know I believe in them.”
Stacey Dragon, Bristol Sports, Bristol Borough PA
“We see a real need for these programs,” said Dragon. “Kids that are involved are less likely to get in trouble or miss school. The team atmosphere helps build better bonds with other kids and their families, strengthening our town as a whole.”
Dragon said they offered a kickball program which drew 146 kids in the first year. To celebrate this spectacular turnout and season, they held a banquet with awards and sweatshirts on a very tight budget.
Through Bristol Sports, Dragon also runs the local Little League program which has nearly 250 players as well as the fall baseball and softball program with 115 children. She never turns a child away.
“Any child who wants to play will play,” said Dragon. “If a family can’t afford it, we will find the funds so the child can play for free and get the needed equipment.”
Mike Jones, The Guru School, in Durham, N.C.
Quentin and Jacqueline Murray, The Veteran’s Place, in New Llano, La.
Rosalind Rayford, Bella House, in Dallas, Texas
Jillian Voehl, The Stars Vipers Rainboas, in Richmond, Texas
Emma White, Life Is Worth It, in Reno, Nev.
Laura and Kevin Cieslukowski, We See You San Diego, in San Diego, Ca.
Mario Claussen, Stand With Mario, in Ontario, Ca.
Peter Kelleher, Support the Soupman, Bridgewater, Mass.
Kristena Kitchen, Bryanna’s Love, Inc., Burtonsville, Md.
Katie Stagliano, Katie’s Krops, in Summerville, S.C.
Jay Coakley, Ellie's Hats, in South Riding, Va.
Laura Herzog, Honoring Our Fallen, in Garden Grove, Ca.
Christene Layne, Operation School Shoes, in Dana, Ky.
Joe Leal, Vet Hunters Project, in South El Monte, Ca.
Bill Ridgley, Tori's Angels, in Panora, Ia.
“Giving…making a difference in someone’s life” has been the mission of Jersey Mike’s from the beginning. It started with Jersey Mike’s Founder Peter Cancro who shares the importance of giving back and inspires the rest of the company.
To celebrate the company’s 12th Annual Month of Giving fundraising campaign in March, Jersey Mike’s locations across the country are joining forces with the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games and the local state programs attending the USA Games held June 5-12, in Orlando, Fla.
Every four years, more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states unite to compete in one of the most beloved and inspiring sporting events in the US – the Special Olympics USA Games. It is all part of a global movement using sports to end discrimination and empower people with intellectual disabilities.
During the month of March, customers can make donations through the Jersey Mike’s mobile app or onsite.
The campaign culminates with the nationwide event, Day of Giving, on Wednesday, March 30, when local Jersey Mike’s owners and operators will donate their resources and every single dollar that comes in to the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.
Jersey Mike’s is the presenting sponsor of the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, and it hopes to raise even more for the non-profit organization than last year’s record-breaking $15 million fundraising campaign. Jersey Mike’s Month of Giving has raised more than $88 million for local charities since it began in 2011.
About Jersey Mike’s Subs
Jersey Mike’s Subs, with more than 2,000 locations nationwide, serves authentic fresh sliced/fresh grilled subs on in-store freshly baked bread — the same recipe it started with in 1956. Passion for giving in Jersey Mike’s local communities is reflected in its mission statement: “Giving…making a difference in someone’s life.” For more information, please visit our website or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Being a Sub Above is both a way of doing business and a way of life. That’s why we’ve dedicated more than $88 million to thousands of local charities.