The family joke is that when my dad was a typical wiseass kid in religious school, and was called upon to answer a question about any significant historical figure, his stock answer was, “(So-and-so) was a great Jewish philanthropist,” (and technically he was almost always right!).

Well, I’m proud to be living in a frat house full of budding great Jewish philanthropists. You see, tomorrow kicks off the Fourth Annual Reiser Brothers’ Jimmy Fund Challenge. Late in July, each guy makes a pledge to be totaled based on statistics of the Red Sox during the month of August, and together they make a combined donation to the Jimmy Fund, which supports cancer research and care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

The Jimmy Fund has been the official charity of the Boston Red Sox since 1953, and for the past seven years, Red Sox broadcasting partners WEEI and NESN have run a two-day telethon in August. This year’s telethon will be held August 14th and 15th, and during the broadcast of those games, NESN and WEEI will include incredibly compelling and inspiring interviews with patients, their family members and doctors. My boys were so deeply touched by the stories a few years ago that they decided they wanted to help. They each had always been required to direct a portion of their weekly allowance to a charitable account, but didn’t really have a good understanding of what that meant and what they could do with it. Here, finally, was the opportunity to make it real and teach them about charitable responsibility.

We were deeply entrenched in Fantasy Baseball that summer (Mama was the Commissioner!), and using Sox players’ statistics to come up with individual gifts to the Jimmy Fund seemed like an idea that dovetailed quite nicely. The project combined their love of baseball with a heaping lesson in math/statistics and, most significantly, it underscored the importance of charitable giving. The guys learned about box scores and spreadsheets and the invaluable efforts of the Jimmy Fund – but most of all they learned that they could make a difference. Every day for a month we were pumped to tally our spreadsheet and see how the pledges were shaping up. Now it’s become an honored August tradition.

The first couple of years, the gang based their donations exclusively on home-run production, but that grew a bit tiresome. This year, each guy formulated his pledge based on a different stat:

Jake: strikeouts by Sox starting pitching

Matt: Sox home-runs

Zack: Sox RBIs

Ben: doubles and triples hit by the Sox

So despite an especially disappointing July, we’re still heartily encouraged to root-root-root for our Red Sox throughout August. As always, hope springs eternal in Red Sox Nation. Here’s hoping for a big donation to the Jimmy Fund.

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