It has been a busy three years for four freshmen in the Arcadia neighborhood.
Matthew Linhart, Michael Bendok, Xander Black and Samuel Steiner are the creators of Kidz 4 Causes, a fundraising group that focuses on support and awareness for rare diseases.
The four had decided that they wanted to raise money for a rare condition that it seemed not too many people knew about. Their very first campaign was a coin drive held at Samuel’s house, where the boys raised $1,300.
“We thought we were only going to raise $150, and even then, we thought our ultimate goal of $60,000 was ambitious,” Linhart said.
From that original coin drive sprung a foundation that has thus far raised over $50,000.
Steiner’s brother Harry has a rare lung condition called obliterative bronchiolitis, which makes it hard for him to breathe and perform day to day activities
“We wanted to help with a cause that is something we had really dealt with,” Steiner said. “Less than 1,000 people in the world have this disease and it’s a really scary experience.”
The boys then partnered with the Translational Genomics Research Institute(TGen) and its Center for Rare Childhood Diseases. All of the proceeds of the events go toward TGen and its research for rare diseases.
The boys’ original idea was to hold a basketball tournament, and when that idea fell through, they turned their minds to something else: a 5K run.
Once Bendok decided to start a fundraiser, he went to Steiner and the two decided to focus on rare diseases. They then enlisted the help of Black, an experienced runner, and Linhart to put together the 5K run.
“With all of our expertise combined and the way we’ve grown in the past years, we’ve really been able to sprout into a fundraiser that’s raised $50,000,” Bendok said.
With the success of the first coin drive, the boys decided to keep that tradition going and held multiple drives on January 21, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The coin drives are a starting off point for the run held in February. Midfirst Bank has matched the boys’ earnings each year to help donations.
Along with the coin drive and 5K, the boys also put together a restaurant fundraiser in November, where people can come eat and raise awareness for their cause. The first year they partnered with Pei Wei and this past year, Creamistry and Chipotle.
Thus far, Kidz 4 Causes has held three races. This year, the race fell on Rare Disease Day; fitting for the boys’ cause. In the past, there have been more than 200 people who have come out to Arizona Falls to support the foundation.
“I think a lot of people initially thought they might be a blip on the radar, but instead they’ve exceeded expectations,” said Xander’s mother, Nikki Black. “They meet often, they’ve been told ‘yes’ and ‘no’ a lot, and have worked hard to grow their brand and raise money. We’re very proud of them.”
Kidz 4 Causes has gained such notice that NBC even came out to do a story on its coin drive last year. It’s been recognized by multiple media outlets including 12 News and Southwest Journal, as well as being on a local radio station.
One of their most prestigious meetings came when the boys met with Governor Doug Ducey, who presented them with the Everyday Young Hero Award in recognition for their services.
“In the future we want to pass along our organization to other kids in our school so they can continue our cause,” Bendok said.
The boys plan on continuing their events until they finish high school. In the future, they would also like to hold a fundraising gala at their school, but for now, they’re sticking with homework and raising money and support for an amazing cause.
For more: kidz-4-causes.org.