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Taking fundraising to heart: Bernie Burns

Meet Bernie Burns. Over the past three years, he’s raised more than $160,000 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in Tennessee as a Love’s Travel Stops general manager.

In 2016, he surpassed the $80,000 mark—with his store Love’s 346 in Columbia, Tennessee raising more than $2,000 per day during the five-week campaign that ran from August 25 to September 30.

To say that raising funds for children’s hospitals is close to Burns’ heart is an understatement. His experience became intensely personal when his oldest daughter Ashleigh, was treated for a heart condition at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital.

Her diagnosis and resulting surgery was the Burns family’s first experience with a specialized children’s hospital and one that makes Bernie proud to do his part for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals each fundraising season. “It was overwhelming,” Burns recalls his concerns as a parent. “Not knowing how things were going to turn out. The way they handled it—it was unlike any hospital that I’d ever been to. It was all a positive experience from the staff, doctors and even the follow up to this day (four years later) is great.”

Just a year after Ashleigh’s treatment at LeBonheur, Burns attended a naming ceremony for a newly christened Love’s Travel Stops room. “It hadn’t been that long since we’d been there and it was right next to the room that she stayed in after her surgery,” he remembers with emotion.

And his dedication to the cause of raising money for CMN Hospitals has only intensified since. Each year, Burns puts a tremendous amount of effort into his store’s fundraising efforts—and even recruits members of his family and church to volunteer during the campaign.

Over the past three years, he’s organized a variety of creative ways to raise money, both in the store and around the city. You’ll often find Burns and his family collecting donations outside of Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville, TN during events, the Nashville Flea Market, Nashville Sounds Baseball games, Vanderbilt University Football games and any other venue where there will be lots of people.

At the store, employees focus on asking every customer for a donation and selling baked goods or having a barbecue to raise additional funds. During the campaign, you might even be greeted by one of Burns’ children at the door with a canister asking for a donation and you’ll find all sorts of unique designs made from paper Miracles Balloons throughout the store.

In 2015, after raising $51,700 for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt at a store he’s been transferred to just one month before the campaign began, Burns vowed to raise 25% more in 2016. And he did! $80,120 was his final total for the year. Now, with a recent move to Jackson, TN and Love’s 244, Burns will once again be raising funds for LeBonheur in 2017 and the Love’s community looks forward to another successful fundraising campaign—thanks in part to Bernie’s efforts.