Billy Loss started working for Costco in May 2019. He was hired as a forklift driver, but that first week in the warehouse, his attention was drawn to the registers.

“All of a sudden, I would hear the ringing of cowbells and people shouting and cheering,” Loss says. “I didn’t know what was going on, but right away I wanted to be a part of it.”

What was going on was Costco’s annual fundraiser during the Miracle Month of May. Throughout the month, Costco warehouses across the country raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals by asking members to donate at the register, with some warehouses ringing a bell to celebrate each donation. Costco matches a percentage of the donations, which also include contributions from employees and vendors. As a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, Phoenix Children’s receives the funds raised at warehouses in the Valley and in Prescott.

Billy Loss and Jeff Tilghman pose for a photo while standing inside Costco's forklifts.
Billy Loss and Jeff Tighman turn Costco's annual register campaign into a friendly competition for a cause.

For Loss, the Miracle Month of May hit close to home, making him even more intent on participating. “My son was born at 26 weeks and spent about four months in an incubator at a hospital in California,” he says. “We didn’t have the money to cover the cost of his care and so we had to rely on donations from people like me. This is my opportunity to give back.”

At the center of the commotion Loss heard that first day was fellow forklift driver Jeff Tilghman. Every May for the past seven or eight years, Tilghman has jockeyed for coveted cashier shifts so he can participate in the fundraiser. Like Loss, Tilghman is also inspired by personal experience.

“I spent a lot of time at Phoenix Children’s as a child for some major health conditions,” he says. “I remember them bringing me orange juice and video games, books, puzzles and coloring supplies. I didn’t realize it until much later, but environment is critical to recovery as a child. So, Phoenix Children’s definitely holds a special place in my heart.”

A perfect technique

Right away, Loss went to Tilghman and asked about his technique for getting members to donate.

“Each day, I write ‘$1,000’ at the top of a piece of paper that I keep at my register,” Tilghman says. When a member comes through, I hold it up and say, ‘I’m trying to raise $1,000 for Phoenix Children’s Hospital today. Would you like to help me?’”

When a member donates, he writes the amount on the sheet and deducts it from the total. Tilghman realized that one donation often would spark another from the next member in line. That’s when he started making a big deal of it when someone donated, ringing a bell and “just being loud and obnoxious,” he says.

“It really gets people excited. I’ll get little kids with their purses pulling out $2 and change because they want to be a part of it, because it feels good to donate,” Tilghman says. “Every May—it’s really a lot of fun.”

Friendly competition

When Tilghman and Loss were on shift together at the North Phoenix warehouse, they turned their fundraising into a friendly rivalry. “We would request to be positioned at cash registers that faced each other,” Tilghman says. “That way we could play off each other. ‘Oh, your member donated $10? Well, mine just donated $20!’”

The rivalry has worked well for them. Over the years, Tilghman and Loss estimate they’ve raised more than $100,000 apiece for Phoenix Children’s, highlighting the power of incremental asks.

“Some people can only afford to give $1, and that’s just fine,” Tilghman says. “We celebrate them all the same. It’s the fact that it adds up that makes a difference. And it’s cool to see the community rally around such a great cause.” In May 2023, Costco members and employees raised nearly $1 million for Phoenix Children’s.

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