he Ruggiero family

The Ruggiero family that runs four Ace Hardware stores includes, from left, Tony, owners Martin and Art, Austin and Josh. Tony is Martin’s son, and Josh and Austin are Art’s.  (Special to AFN)

Jack Bahr was happy selling tools and other stuff at Ruggiero’s Ace Hardware in Chandler, where he’s store manager.

Then he took a tour of Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Then he took on an extra job with the enthusiastic support of Art and Martin Ruggiero, owners of the Ace Hardware stores in Ahwatukee, Chandler, Gilbert and Peoria.

Now, along with managing the Ruggieros’ Chandler store, he now organizes fundraisers for Children’s Hospital and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 2, he’s bringing his seventh one in 16 months to the Desert Foothills Ace Hardware at 1335 E. Chandler Blvd., Ahwatukee.

Dispelling the notion that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, Bahr has arranged to have “grilling professionals” from four grill manufacturers – Weber, Traeger, Blackstone and Char Broil – cook one up for anyone who attends the Ace block party from between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“I can’t tell you how much food they cook. It’s amazing,” said Bahr.

And from 9 a.m., he and his helpers will be selling $1, $5 and $10 raffle tickets that can get winners some sweet prizes worth as much as $900 – that would be the top prize, a Traeger Pro 34 grill with front folding shelf, cover and two bags of pellets.

In all, more than $5,000 worth of items – from grills and a Milwaukee Tools kit to a Hayworth Aquanaut pool cleaner and mops to pool supply kits and 10 gallons of Valspar paint – will be raffled off. The $1 tickets entitle winners to prizes worth up to $100, while the $5 tickets are good for items valued between $100 and $500 and the $10 tickets good for anything valued above $500.

In addition, singer Rhonda Towns will give concerts at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Following her last concert, the winning tickets for all the items will be drawn and while ticket purchasers don’t have to be present to win, “you’d be surprised how many people come back at 3,” Bahr said.

Bahr knows this because he has organized six similar events at the other Ruggiero Ace Hardware stores ever since he toured Children’s.

“I didn’t become passionate until I went there,” he said. “You have no idea where the money goes. It goes to things like teachers for the kids who are hospitalized long term so that when they get out, they haven’t missed anything in class.”

“That’s one small facet of what these fundraisers support. I’m fortunate that I’ve never had to be hospitalized, and I don’t mind giving up my time to do this. Kids are our future and we should be helping. And these kids in the hospital, they deserve a chance.”

Though he said “I never organized an event in my life,” Bahr organized his first Ace Hardware fundraiser for the hospital in November 2017.

“I’ve made these things into huge monsters. It takes three months to plan one,” he said, adding that a vast majority of the store’s suppliers happily sign on to donate merchandise. Besides giving back, the vendors also have a chance to have representatives on hand to answer any questions people might have about their products.

Still, those vendors have to be contacted and schedules need to be arranged with the several dozen who get on board.

He’s also quick to credit his employers.

“They’re not corporate and that’s why they can do this,” he said of the Ruggieros. “It’s a family business and they like giving back to the community.

That’s why, he added, his Chandler store has one charity or another in front of the store almost every weekend.

His events so far have raised over $10,000 for the hospital, but Bahr is expecting the Ahwatukee event to raise that much on its own – and draw a couple thousand people.

“There’s something special about Ahwatukee,” he said. “I live in Gilbert and work in Chandler, and they’re nice communities, but Ahwatukee is unique. People here really like to help others.”

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