Raising money for charity, step by step

June 01, 2018 : Mary Ann Luther

When it comes to a challenge, Shelley Hotchkiss steps up. Like 856 times.

That’s how many stairs Hotchkiss climbed to raise $3,180 during a recent fundraiser for the American Lung Association’s annual Fight for Air Climb in St. Louis, Missouri. All told, those stairs equaled 40 flights, which she mounted in memory of her late father and late grandmother.

“2018 marks 20 years since I lost my dad to lung cancer at the age of 44, and my grandma lost her battle with COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] three years ago,” says Hotchkiss, an H&R Block district general manager for the St. Louis area.

“I decided to step out of my comfort zone and step up to the challenge for both of them – and so many more who struggle to breathe.

“The funds raised at the Fight for Air Climb will help provide patient education and support important research and advocacy efforts for everyone living with lung disease, including COPD, lung cancer and asthma.”

Team effort

To prepare for the climb at the lofty Metropolitan Square building in downtown St. Louis, Hotchkiss practiced going up and down stairs at home and on the stair stepper machine at the gym.

“At an office manager meeting before the event, I made a joke about moving slower than usual – because I was,” says Hotchkiss.

After explaining why, others in the group got on board with the cause and encouraged associates in their offices to help raise money.

“In 10 days, my H&R Block teams increased donations from $1,052 to $3,183! I was absolutely blown away. They told me it was their chance to support me for all the times I have supported them.”

A surprise finish

Raising money for good causes can be its own reward. But in this case, Hotchkiss got a bonus out of the blue.

“The day of the event was emotional and the climb was tough, but I did not quit,” says Hotchkiss. “I kept climbing, and it was one of things I am the most proud of accomplishing.”

After participating in the fundraiser, Hotchkiss got a surprise phone call from the American Lung Association.

“They told me that I was the top individual fundraiser for the Fight for Air Climb and, as a result, I was invited to throw out the first pitch at the St. Louis Cardinals game the next day.

“Both my dad and my grandma were huge Cardinals fans and I was just stunned that, in wanting to do something to honor them and help others, I was receiving this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

What goes around …

But Hotchkiss knows she didn’t go it alone.

“I would have never achieved this milestone without the additional fundraising by my H&R Block teams.”

And on game day, when she walked out on the field and was handed the ball, the magnitude of the effort sunk in.

“I was thinking about how positive truly attracts positive. By honoring the memory of those already gone; by raising money to help those still fighting; and by receiving tremendous and unexpected support from my family, friends and co-workers, I was actually on the field at Busch Stadium to throw out the first pitch at a Cardinals game.

“What a wonderful opportunity and a solid reminder that no matter what, keep climbing.”


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Mary Ann Luther


How taxes affect everyday life is one of Mary Ann Luther’s favorite subjects. But medicine, insurance, engineering and education are right up there. She’s covered them all as a writer and/or editor for The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma TODAY magazine, GEICO and The Catholic University of America, and as a freelancer for many more. Luther earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from University of Missouri-Columbia. Go, Tigers!

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