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The Christmas Story that Sparked Rick Jackson’s Legacy of Giving


Rick Jackson’s personal mission to serve others was first sparked more than 50 years ago – on Christmas Day.

In an interview with WSB-Radio, the Jackson Healthcare CEO and founder shares his personal story and how it ignited a spirit of giving that continues to this day.

Mark: Joining us to start off the show is our old buddy Rick Jackson, CEO and Chairman of Jackson Healthcare. Rick welcome to the program, how are you my friend?

Rick: I’m doing fine, Mark, thank you very much.

Mark: Thank you for your continued support for Clark’s Christmas Kids. I know these two days mean so, so much to you.

Rick: Absolutely. You know I’m really, really appreciative of what you guys are doing and Clark for so many years. The fact that he’s almost worn out today kind of proves a small sacrifice of what he’s been doing for years. This really means a lot to me and let me just tell you why.

I was in the foster care system. My background was not really unique it’s probably about the average situation, even today, that kids have because I’m still involved with them. I went to 8 different elementary schools and 5 different highschools, my mother was an alcoholic and so I went into the foster care system on my 13th birthday.

During that time I was sent to the Methodist Children’s Home and it was sometime in early December, about this time of year. And then Christmas came around and all of the kids in the cottages went home to somebody. So I was by myself and, you know, if you can imagine being a child and taken from your home with a strange place and going to bed on Christmas Eve knowing that you’re not gonna have a Christmas. It’s a very difficult time, it was for me. And a lot of these kids that you guys are taking care of are going to be so surprised. I cried myself to sleep that night, Christmas Eve. I woke up the next morning and there was an envelope under my door. I picked it up and it said, “a gift from an anonymous donor” and it was a $100 bill.

Mark: Wow

Rick: And that was 53 years ago, that was a lot of money back then. It just blew me away that somebody I didn’t know gives me money for no reason without any hope of giving it back. A complete stranger. It really gave me hope that people cared. And so, at any rate obviously I had been doing this for, you know, 40 years helping foster kids during Christmas. I think Clark’s been doing it longer than I have.

Clark: No only 31, only 31 you’re ahead of me.

Rick: But you’ve made such big, such a huge impact on this and the numbers are staggering it’s just amazing. I wanted to let you know though because of you Clark and this program and so for like that I’d love to really inspire others to donate to Clark’s Christmas Kids and we would like to have a challenge gift. We’re going to donate $50,000 today towards your program.

Mark: Wow. Rick Jackson, Chairman CEO of Jackson Healthcare joining us on Clark’s Christmas Kids.

Clark: Hey and Rick I want to tell you how grateful I am to you. I know the pain you still feel from being a young child and that you are willing to share that and share with people how important this is. It means so much to me and I’m just grateful to you for sharing your story. I appreciate your money, but I’m more grateful for you sharing your story.

Rick: Well, I’m glad to do it because I’ve dedicated my life to give the foster kids a voice. I was trying to do some legislation about 10 years ago for foster kids and one of the State Senators said that he had been down there 17 years and never even heard the words “foster care” and it became evident to me that somebody needed to stick up – they don’t have an association or lobbying group to help them – and so to give them a voice, I wanted to give them a voice and just let people understand.

I just wish all of you could be able to see the faces of these children that you’re going to help on Christmas morning when they are so surprised because they’re not expecting anything, they shouldn’t expect anything. I mean you wouldn’t go to some stranger’s house and expect to get any gifts and so forth and these foster parents don’t have enough money to be able to take care of their own kids an plus a foster child. I just wish you guys could see them because it would warm your heart and I can assure you that by giving to Clark’s Christmas Kids that you’re making a huge impact that lasts for a lot longer than just this gift.

Mark: 53 years ago an anonymous donor gave Rick, who was in foster care, an unexpected $100 and you have repaid that thousands fold going on. So someone that donates today to Clark’s Christmas Kids and fills out the wish list of someone that’s currently in foster care, you could be spurring the next Rick Jackson. That someone that is so touched and moved by your generosity that all these years later that they might come back and do what Rick is doing, truly paying it forward. Amazing. Rick did you age out of foster care? What happened after that Christmas, that fateful Christmas morning?

Rick: Yes, I did. I still stayed in foster care I never got back with my mom and then I did age out of foster care. I was very lucky I had great foster parents they were real nice, Christian foster parents that I was able to get my life straightened out and to be able to move on and to have a chance at life which a lot of the kids don’t. But giving to Clark’s Christmas Kids is a gift that keeps giving and, again, you will never know this side of heaven what it means to these kids. And I appreciate, Clark, you doing this. I’m glad I’m not there because I’d probably come over and hug you.

Clark: What’s wrong with that?

Mark: Yeah, come on Rick! It’s funny you say that because I’ve been involved in Clark’s Christmas Kids for this is 24 years out of the 31 and every year that I buy gifts for the kids and fill out their wish list that morning of Christmas I wake up with a smile on my face thinking oh my god, that kid Tommy’s going to get the bike that I gave him or Sally’s going to get the doll that.. and I mean it makes Christmas morning for me knowing the kids in foster kids will wake up and not expect the gifts, but get the gifts.

Clark: And Rick you have no idea how much this means to Mark and me because we used to only have Chinese food to look for on Christmas day.

Mark: That is true, we still do, we still do indeed. Rick, I mean, I don’t want to talk shop with you but the newsperson in me has to ask you’re the CEO of Jackson Healthcare, you staff healthcare and technology companies, how’s it been during the pandemic for you guys?

Rick: Well, we’ve been very, very busy about as busy as Clark here has been talking about. COVID has really maxed out, we’re in the healthcare clinical staffing, and it has really maxed out the entire system and so we’ve had to have people starting in March a year ago 24-7 responding trying to help getting people in the right places to help them with the COVID and other parts of healthcare so we’ve been very busy. It’s starting to slow down now which I’m glad to see.

It has been taxing on all of us but our company it’s been taxing on because it’s just put a lot of demands. We see this as a patriotic thing to do to help hospitals and clinics and nursing homes and so forth to make sure they have the right people so that they can keep providing patient care.

Mark: Well, thank you to you and your staff and just to echo what Clark said, your donation is amazing – your story, even better. Gonna get folks to donate. Rick, thanks for your generosity. Merry Christmas to you and yours, my friend.

Clark: Thank you, Rick.

Rick: Thank you both. Appreciate it.