At the young ages of 15 and 16, Xander Black, Matthew Linhart, Michael Bendok, and Samuel Steiner have grown into bona-fide fundraising veterans. The foursome came together during their seventh-grade year under a shared desire to affect positive change and raise money for those in need. 

“As seventh graders we may not have had all of the resources to make the biggest impact in terms of rare disease funding, but we certainly had the will,” Michael said.

Kidz 4 Causes was born out of this dedication.  

Samuel’s younger brother Harry, who serves as the inspiration for the group’s cause, has obliterative bronchiolitis, a rare lung condition that leaves him with less than 30 percent lung functionality.  

“Hearing about what Harry went through really made an impact on me,” Xander said. “There are over 7,000 rare diseases affecting over 20 million Americans. Only 5 percent of these diseases have FDA-approved treatments and most children with a rare disease don’t even make it to their 5th birthday.”  

Since their first event, a coin drive at Michael’s home in January 2016, 100 percent of the money raised by the group has gone to Translational Genomics Research Institute’s (TGen) Center for Rare Childhood Diseases.  

“At the beginning, I felt like the four of us had the potential to do something very special for our community to help support children who have rare diseases such as Harry,” Matthew said.  

Matthew’s instincts have proven to be prophetic, as the boys have done and continue to do things that are special.  

At the time of that first event, the boys established a lofty goal: they would raise $200,000 to support the research of rare childhood diseases before they graduated high school. Now, halfway through their sophomore year, that goal looks entirely within reach. To date, they have raised just under $100,000.  

Kidz 4 Causes’ most successful fundraising event has been its annual 5K Run and 1 mile walk for rare disease research. On Sunday March 3, the organization will host the fourth edition of the event.  

“It was a huge success the first year and has grown every year since. It has definitely exceeded my expectations and putting on this event every year really means a lot to me,” Xander said.  

Last year’s race featured live music, high level competition in the 5K, and plenty of four-legged friends on the one-mile walk. They raised more than $30,000.  

“This year we hope to have a record-breaking 300 participants and raise around $40,000,” Xander said. It is an ambitious goal, but at this point, it would be foolish to doubt Kidz 4 Causes.  

This year’s race will take place on the Arizona Canal at 56th Street and Indian School Road. Registration is now open.