‘It’s not about me’: Why this UA senior spends his time giving back

While most high school sophomores were dreaming about dating, video games and the Friday night lights, Demarcus Rudolph had different priorities. 

In 2015, while living in his hometown of Daphne, Alabama, Rudolph started Mary’s Dream, a charity named after his grandmother, who died when he was young. Rudolph said his grandmother taught him what it means to be selfless and to give back to the less fortunate.

“I believe you’re supposed to give back and help people,” said Rudolph, now a senior at the University of Alabama. “The motto I live by is, ‘If I can give the clothes off my back in a heartbeat, I would.’”

His charity, Mary’s Dream, strives to give back to the community – especially elderly people and school-age children. Mary’s Dream started an annual back-to-school drive three years ago and is currently running a project called “Putting a Smile in Nursing Homes.” The project consists of sending letters to residents in nursing homes all across the United States.

“We started out just taking fruit, blankets, socks and stuff to nursing homes in our area, and then it [started] trickling down to doing back-to-school drives like fun days for kids,” he said.

Some of the projects and events hosted by this charity are inspired by its namesake, who was very involved in the Daphne community. Mary Rudolph worked as a school bus driver for 25 years and opened Rudolph Home Daycare in 1992, which remained open for 13 years.

Mary Rudolph also spent her time giving back to the community and hosted an annual back-to-school cookout where she gave away free school supplies for 10 years. Irvin Rudolph, Demarcus’ father, said that he believes his son is trying to “pick up where [his grandmother] left off.”

As a child, Demarcus Rudolph spent more time at his grandparent’s house than he did at his own. He attended four to five church services with his grandmother every Sunday and said his favorite memories of his grandmother took place there.

Irvin Rudolph said that his son is helping a lot of people. 

“He was washing cars all summer, and [we] went to the store and spent several hundred dollars on school supplies [using] all the money he raised, and he gave [the school supplies] away,” he said.

Annie DeBartolo, Demarcus Rudolph’s aunt, has been closely involved with Mary’s Dream, which has allowed her to get closer to her nephew.

“He’s an ear to listen to your problems, a shoulder to cry on, [and] a warm blanket on a very cold day,” DeBartolo said.

After college, Demarcus Rudolph wants to get a building to house his charity and offer cheap after-school care. He said he doesn’t plan to stop running the charity any time soon. 

“It’s not about me,” he said. “I just want people to know that there’s always somebody out there who cares.”