Riz Pack is so busy — working as a stay-at-home dad, running his own DJ/karaoke business (Name That Tune), and organizing fundraising events — that he sneaks in a little shut-eye whenever possible. Even if that
means while waiting in the Jackman Elementary car loop to pick up his kids!
Despite the occasional opportunistic cat-nap, Riz Pack successfully juggles the various aspects of his life with a little “creative scheduling.” Every parent would agree that raising four kids, ages 1 to 14, is a monumentally challenging task, but somehow Riz still manages to find time to fundraise for children’s illnesses on top of his daily life and work demands. The whole family follows his lead and chips in, volunteering their time: his wife, Heather (whom he met 17 years ago on the Whitmer High school bus), and their four children, Logan 14, Mikaylah 9, Lucas 7, and Linkin (yes, as in the band Linkin Park), 1.
Riz was inspired to develop “The Company (Children’s Fundraisers)” after a commercial from St. Jude Children’s Hospital moved him to start volunteering. Riz has suffered from ankylosing spondylitis for the last twelve years, which makes laying on flat surfaces extremely painful, so he has spent many nights asleep on the living room recliner in front of the TV instead of in his bed.
In February of 2009, Riz woke up at 3:30 in the morning, in pain, to a St. Jude’s commercial. “I’ve always had a soft spot for both cancer victims and kids,” Riz says. “As I watched the commercial,
I started tearing up.” The TV spot encouraged individuals to complete their own fundraising, instead of simply donating, and Riz thought, “I can do that! We could do a music festival; I know all of the local DJs, photographers, bands, caterers, and concert halls.” He immediately put his plan into action.
Riz (who was nicknamed “Riz” because he was inspired by Frank Rizzo of the Queens, New York comedy group Jerky Boys to prank call strangers) rounded up ten people and used his DJ connections to book bands for their first fundraiser, a music festival. It was a huge success, and he has done the same event every November since.
In 2010, Riz and the other volunteers were invited to visit St. Jude Hospital in Memphis. “You think you’re going to cry the whole time you’re there, but it’s actually not a sad place,” Riz says. “It’s inspiring … I just don’t understand why kids have to suffer. Why are some kids playing in the leaves and other kids are tied up to tubes? It’s just where my heart’s at.”
Riz describes himself as the “huggy-kissy” type who is a bit of a “pushover” when it comes to raising his kids. He had one request during this interview: he wanted to dedicate this article to the memory of Toledoan Jaxson R. Hauser. Jaxson recently died of neuroblastoma cancer at only 17 months old; he went through treatment and was considered cancer-free, but the cancer unfortunately returned with a vengeance. Riz said
Jaxson’s parents are turning a “negative into a positive” and starting the Jaxson Foundation to help other parents deal with this common, yet frequently undiagnosed, childhood cancer. In true Riz fashion, he wanted their story told as well.