A-List Philanthropist on Set at Phoenix Children’s Hospital
When Dwight “Red” Harkins left Cincinnati in 1931, he was headed for Hollywood on his Harley Davidson, determined to land a role in the exciting new world of talking pictures. But by the time he made it to Arizona he was almost penniless, and with a new dream: to open his own movie house. He did just that in 1933, opening The State Theatre in Tempe – at age 18 and during the height of the Depression.
His son, Dan Harkins, wasn’t much older when he took the helm at age 21 after his dad passed away in 1974. It’s safe to say that the movies were already in Dan Harkins’ blood. He had not only worked every job in his father’s five theatres – from janitor to projectionist – he was actually raised in one. Over the next three decades Dan steadily increased the number of screens and today, Harkins Theatres is the sixth largest theater chain in North America.
Harkins will celebrate 80 years of entertainment next year. And they will also commemorate 80 years of giving back to the community. “This is something we have been dedicated to from the very beginning. It’s always been in our DNA,” says Harkins, whose dad would hold telethons for cerebral palsy starting in the 1940s. “It makes good social sense. If the community isn’t thriving, then we aren’t going to survive. But more than that, it just feels good to do it.”
The Harkins Theatres $1 million “Feel Good Partnership of the Year” with Phoenix Children’s Hospital is where the company dedicates the majority of their philanthropic energy and resources. Dan says partnering with the hospital was an easy decision to make. “We chose Phoenix Children’s because their involvement in the community is much like ours; it’s grassroots and homegrown,” he explains. “But no one needs to go to the movies. But many children and families do need Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and we want to help make a difference in their lives.”
Oftentimes, their involvement with Phoenix Children’s is persona. Many members of the Harkins’ staff have had their own experiences with the hospital. And, it’s safe to say that many of his movie patrons have as well. In fact, Dan considers moviegoers his co-stars in the partnership. “If the fans didn’t come to our theaters and buy the popcorn and buy the Harkins loyalty t-shirt, we wouldn’t have the resources to pass along to the hospital,” says Dan. “When moviegoers see the hospital’s new patient tower, they should be proud that they contributed to it too.”
A portion of the sales from Harkins “loyalty t-shirts” goes directly to the Phoenix Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders – a number that is expected to reach $70,000 this year.
Harkins says Phoenix Children’s isn’t the only beneficiary in their relationship with Phoenix Children’s, something he is reminded of when his staff visits the hospital to pass out goodies and visit with patients. “When we interact with the patients, we see firsthand the great work being done at the hospital and how incredible the patients and families are. They are so positive, so welcoming and so strong. They really inspire us and give us so much more than we can ever give them.”
Just as Harkins has grown over the years, so has the hospital. And Dan encourages other companies to do what they can to give back. “People can help out individually, but a large corporation with several hundred employees can make a tremendous difference,” he says. “When I tour this hospital and see the nurses, the volunteers, the social workers, the teachers, it’s a very heartwarming experience. But it’s also a reminder that it takes more than just doctors to cure patients. It’s a huge group effort and I’m happy to be a small part of it.”
Photos and story courtesy Phoenix Children's Hospital