28-year-old Callie Simpkins doesn’t do anything halfway. As a child, she didn’t play a sport; she played every sport. When she signed up to compete in Haymakers for Hope’s 2019 Fight Night in New York City, she doesn’t train on the side; she trains six days a week. And she didn’t relax her fundraising efforts to KO cancer when she broke the highest female fundraising record; she kept going until she broke the most money pledged in the history of the organization. 

With just a month to go until Fight Night, Callie’s supporters have donated over $192,000. The record she broke? 2018 fighter Bobby Grogan’s, a close friend of Callie’s who convinced her to sign up to fight in the first place. 

Simpkins, who works in leveraged finance sales at Goldman Sachs, grew up in Maryland in an active, athletic family. She and her sister (a competitive Cross Fitter) tried everything from basketball to ballet and both went on to play soccer in college. Her predisposition for sports made Haymakers for Hope initially interesting, but she has a more personal reason to fight, too.

“The first experience I ever had with cancer was when my dad got diagnosed when I was ten. Our whole family was really active and healthy, but he got Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Thankfully, he got great treatment, was able to focus on getting chemo and radiation. They just attacked it. I remember my dad took our family down to his barber the day before he started chemotherapy, and said ‘I’m going to get my head shaved bc I’m going to be the one that makes the decision that my hair’s gone, not cancer, not chemo.’ He has this attitude of I’m-going-to-fight. That sticks in my head from when I was ten. He displayed a fighter’s mentality to me.”

Sadly, that wasn’t Callie’s only encounter with the disease. Her close family friend Gail Lazenby lost her battle with cancer. “Everyone has been affected by cancer in some part of their life and I have these two glaring examples of how it has hit close to home for me. It’s something I wanted to raise money for.”

Callie says she didn’t have a fundraising goal when she first started training. “In the first few days, I saw the outpouring of support and it became clear I could crush it with this if I tried. I decided I was going to put everything I could into this, both on the training and fundraising side. After the first week, I reached out to the org and said ‘What’s the most money anyone has ever raised?’ and they said it was my friend Bobby [who raised $116,075 in 2018]. In the first month and a half the Haymakers team reached out and told me I was the highest female fundraiser they’ve ever had. I said, ‘That’s not what I want. I’m going to be your highest fundraiser ever.’”

Two months into training, Callie had raised over a hundred thousand dollars. She doesn’t have a new stretch goal in mind, but she says she’s not slowing in the final weeks until Fight Night. 

How did she do it? Callie credits her professional network for a lot of her fundraising success. “Thankfully I work in a really generous place. I’ve had the benefit of being able to build relationships with the people I work with for six years. They’re not just showing up for this one thing, they’re showing up to support someone they’ve known for years and developed a relationship with.” 

The newly-crowned fundraising champ says future Haymakers fighters can go all in on fundraising, too. “Just having a passion for the training and the fight comes off so naturally when you really care about it. Asking people to support you becomes second nature when you believe in what you’re doing. If you know you’re putting your all into it, that’s going to be felt by people who support you.”