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Pinky Swear Foundation hits donation milestone

In Communities that KARE, we celebrate the Edina-based nonprofit marking 20 years and $20 million in donations.

EDINA, Minnesota — The Pinky Swear Foundation reached a milestone. In nearly 20 years, the nonprofit has given away more than $20 million in donations to kids living with cancer and their families.

Two decades ago, 9-year-old Mitch Chepokas made the first pinky swear with his dad, Steve. When Mitch was in the hospital to treat his bone cancer, he wanted to do something special for the other patients. So Mitch withdrew all his life savings and went room to room, delivering envelopes filled with crisp $100 bills to the kids on the pediatric oncology floor. 

Then, knowing he wouldn't be around the following year, Mitch asked his dad for one wish. "So Mitch, a 9-year-old boy, with his infinite wisdom, says, 'I want you to pinky swear that you will help kids with cancer just like me after I'm gone.' So Mitch would sadly pass away the next spring. But his dad would then start the Pinky Swear Foundation," explained Jake Leif, marketing manager for the nonprofit. 

The foundation's help focuses on the day-to-day lives of families whose children are undergoing treatment—rent, mortgage, and car payments. 

If patients need help with gas and groceries, Pinky Swear is there for them. 

"It's amazing watching how much a couple of hundred dollars can mean to a family. I read a statistic recently that the overall childhood cancer journey will cost somewhere around $900,000 because one of the parents usually has to quit a job in order to support and be there for the child. Medical bills and all the other stuff add up. And so realistically, when you think about it, a couple of hundred dollars, it's a drop in the bucket for that kind of price tag. But these families are so appreciative," said Leif.  

2022 was a record-breaking year for the nonprofit, just passing $1.3 million in aid. It's simple to get involved. Just visit Pinky Swear's website to get started.

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