Retiree’s big heart helps charities win even when you lose

Mike Rothman is a 76-year-old former Harvard Medical School Instructor in Psychiatry, serial entrepreneur and member of the Jimmy FundRaiser community. He has used his time in retirement to spearhead Big-Hearted Battles, a movement inviting people of all ages to play games that they are already involved in and love, and encourage the loser to donate to the winner’s charity of choice. “My goal is to turn philanthropy unto FUNlanthropy,” shares Mike. “When the pandemic hit, my darts team and I started playing Big-Hearted Battles virtually so some good would come out of our squandered time. It makes what we do more fun, and we are creating a mini ‘fundraiser’ each time we are getting together.”

Big-Hearted Battles allows the winner of any game, whether it’s chess, pickleball, or even rock, paper, scissors, to select the charity that they would like the loser to donate to. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund is a cause that Mike is proud to support through his own battles, since he was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a type of rare cancer that grows in smooth muscles, including the intestines, stomach, and blood vessels. Mike’s care team is led by George Demetri, MD, director of the Sarcoma Center and the Quick Family Chair in Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber. His treatment plan has been primarily focused on minimally invasive surgeries to remove lesions as they have appeared on CT scans. “It’s fun to have the best brain around to strategize with,” Mike says, when reflecting on his relationship with Dr. Demetri. “We’re on the same page and he knows me and what I can handle.” Mike’s fundraising efforts are being directed to support Dr. Demetri’s Sarcoma Research Fund, which aims to advance clinical research to help identify and develop cutting-edge treatment strategies for sarcoma patients.

Mike is hopeful that other prospective Jimmy FundRaisers will realize how easy it is to start an event to support a cause that they care about. He has seen cases where winners agree to donate as well, which doubles the impact, and sometimes re-matches even occur, keeping the Big-Hearted Battles movement going. “This is a simple idea and I welcome others to try it out,” Mike says. “The idea is to make sports kinder and philanthropy more fun, while bringing people together. You can support Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund without starting a huge event and a simple concept can have seismic impact if it empowers people to take a simple action.”

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