Young Life Lite

On Fat Tuesday 2006 in four Spokane Valley, Washington-area IHOP restaurants, customers were asked, “Would you like sausage, bacon or Young Life with those pancakes?” These four restaurants participated in IHOP’s annual National Pancake Day: the day IHOP chains nationwide serve free pancakes while offering customers the opportunity to contribute to a national charity designated by the corporation.

Back in 2002 when IHOP introduced National Pancake Day, franchise owner Jay Jordan joined in the corporate fundraiser. Yet he would have preferred to support a non-profit closer to home and heart, one that aligned with the community concern and personal passions that he and his wife share. The Spokane Valley Young Life dessert fund-raising event provided the inspiration he was looking for.

“Dawn and I were at the dessert fundraiser and we started thinking, ‘How could we have a greater impact for our kids? Not just my kids, but the kids in our community?’” said Jordan. “And then,” he continued, “I got this weird idea.”

Jordan met with his director of operations, Area Director Tom Davis and Regional Director Aaron McMurray. They talked, prayed and planned. When they parted, they each had a vision for a new Young Life fund-raising event and, importantly, a plan to promote it.

The team used an e-mail message campaign, postcards, posters, church newsletters, radio advertisements and even the on-location broadcast of a local television morning show to get the word out: a free short-stack of pancakes all day long for patrons who visited Jordan’s IHOPs on National Pancake Day.

Word got out and folks turned out. People lined up outside the doors before six in the morning, and they kept coming. “When you offer free pancakes, people will eat pancakes all day long,” said Jordan. He recalled one point in the day as he flipped pancakes in the kitchen of one location, his three other restaurants called his cell phone with urgent pleas. “We need you in the kitchen as soon as possible!” Five thousand free pancakes were served in Jordan’s restaurants that day.

With every order of pancakes, guests received a flyer that gave a brief description of Young Life and its mission. Guests were invited to make a contribution to Young Life on their way out of the restaurant. The response was gratifying.

Donations to Young Life in Jordan’s four locations exceeded the combined collections of the region’s 19 other locations on behalf of IHOP’s national charity. Jordan attributes this to the community’s deep and wide connections to Young Life. “The Young Life network is a lot stronger than I thought it would be,” Jordan said.

By any measure, donations received or good will served up in short stacks, the day was a success. “I didn’t have a clue that we would be thanked in such a powerful way,” Jordan said. “To this day people still come in asking for me. When I meet them, they thank me for my involvement with Young Life.”

Area Director Tom Davis is grateful for Jordan and the risk he took that day. According to Davis the donations received were really the icing on the cake (or perhaps the syrup on the pancake). He said, “This was an opportunity to tell the Young Life story. The day wasn’t so much about fundraising as it was about friend-raising.”

Should you pass through Spokane Valley, chances are very good you’ll meet some friends of Young Life. Fair warning: don’t invite them to breakfast. They eat a lot of pancakes.