Changing The World

Charity Pro Travel is a leading travel website focused on serving charities and bettering the world through travel!

SINGER KATY PERRY’S FATHER, KEITH HUDSON, is on the phone with his longtime friend, Brad Maloney, to tell Florida Weekly about a woman who inspires them both — not the famous Ms. Perry herself, although she inspires them, too. Instead, they’re talking about Megan Maloney, Brad’s oldest daughter, a woman who gives millennials a good name. And that’s just to start with.

Megan (shown in photo), 22, moved to Southwest Florida from her Illinois home with a new degree in marketing last year to join her dad and Keith Hudson in kicking off a business she helped conceive in 2008, Charity Pro Travel (www.charityprotravel.com).

The company, nowadays partnering with Priceline, introduced a compelling new website last week. Customers buying tickets, renting hotel rooms and cars and cruises and anything travel related, not only find the lowest competitive prices but choose a charity. The company then donates half of its commissions to that charity.

In the case of domestic airlines that no longer pay commissions to a travel agent, $2 goes to a charity anyway, Mr. Maloney explains. Airline companies support that effort.

“There are no fees, we don’t charge more, our hotels are the lowest prices. There is never a charge to use the website. You don’t have to sign up, and you don’t have to become a member,” Mr. Maloney says.

He’s now a partnering CEO of Charity Pro Travel with Steve Holloway, the IT expert.

Mr. Hudson is a board member.

He met Mr. Maloney in a hotel lobby while attending one of his daughter’s concerts years ago. Mr. Maloney was there too, with his youngest daughter, Morgan, now 18.

“I’m in this because we are friends and he came to me with this idea for a business that would actually help people,” Mr. Hudson said.

“I’ve been in ministries for 46 years. Helping people is my line of work. Number one, nobody is doing what they’re doing, and number two, people are going to buy hotel rooms, rent cars, buy tickets and travel. So why not help other people at the same time they do it? Brad pitched this to Priceline and about 20 minutes later they were in business.”

The business of doing well by doing good, which has always been his daughter’s intention.

“My parents instilled in me at a young age that life isn’t about becoming a big shot, or rich — it’s about making a difference while you’re here,” Megan said.

“With millennials, half the generation just wants to make money, to go out and be something,” she said. “The other half is like on the border, where I am. They ask, ‘What do you get out of just becoming big and rich? What’s the point?’

“When millennials believe they are using brands with a social or environmental cause, they feel like they’re making a difference, even if just in a small way. So it’s much more than just money for a lot of millennials; they want to feel good about what they’re doing and where they’re going.”

Megan has worked with Ronald McDonald House, above, and with her conncections to Katy Perry was able to provide a guitar signed by Katy for the auction at the Storybook Ball.

The year Megan conceived the idea, two of her grandparents and her uncle all had cancer. And all of them died. Her parents also got divorced. She was 11.

Her father was just considering getting into the travel business at the time, on-line. He had a website.

“We were talking about cancer, and she said, ‘Dad, is there any way we can help fight cancer with this travel (business) idea?” he recalls. “IT was an ‘AHA!’ moment.”

Patrick Swayze had just been diagnosed with the big C, too, so the Maloneys decided to donate all their proceeds from some initial sales to an organization he supported, Stand Up To Cancer.

The act brought the young Ms. Maloney national and even international attention. She appeared on television shows with her dad. She made the front page of a special section of the Los Angeles Times newspaper, with her dad. And then they tented the idea until she could grow up.

When they started working on the idea of Charity Pro Travel again about 20 months ago, Mr. Maloney was told he was out of luck because he’d never be able to compete with the online likes of Expedia, with such companies as Orbitz or CheapTickets or HomeAway or Hotels.com.

But he and Megan thought differently. They called Keith Hudson, talked out an idea, and Mr. Maloney sent a proposal — now part of the company lore — right out of the blue to customerservice@priceline.com. That was on a Friday.

“The phone rings a half-hour later. This guy says, My name is Rick Schneider, I’m vice president of Priceline.’ He said, ‘We love this, let’s have a conference call on Monday.’ We did, and by the following Friday we had a contract with Priceline. They’re our major supporter. They handle all the travel on the website.

“We have the charity partners, we make the donations, and as you go into the booking part of the website, they do the booking. So when you’re done booking Priceline sends us the commission and we donate to charity.”

Megan is the face of the company, the one who reaches out to the charities and brings them aboard — such prominent and celebrated organizations as Ronald McDonald House, Habitat for Humanity, Susan G. Komen, Special Olympics, ALS Hope Foundation, and now newly announced last week, the Shriners Hospital for Children, based in Tampa but with 26 hospitals nationwide.

“Shriners is dependent on our donors and corporate partners to sustain our life-changing mission, enabling kids to live their best lives ever as they are treated for specialty pediatric conditions. Charity Pro Travel has joined the effort to support our mission and we couldn’t be more grateful to be a benefactor of their generosity,” said their spokesman, Mel Bower, in a written statement last week.

The benefits to Shriners Hospitals are obvious: When someone books a $100 hotel room in Miami (there are some great discounts, Mr. Maloney says), Charity Pro Travel might get $10 or $12, and half will go to Shriners when people name it.

But Charity Pro Travel benefits, too. They are now named travel partners for such events as the East-West Shrine Game in college football, or the College World Series, or the Shriner’s PGA Open in Las Vegas.

“Most important to me now is that were growing,” said Ms. Maloney. “We’re receiving tangible information and a new direction to make a difference. To help people. That’s the whole underlying plan.”

While the charities can be high profile, they also include anything legitimate that people celebrate — homeless shelters, animal organizations, churches, food pantries, youth sports groups, for example.

Or children’s causes. Since children and their sometimes dire needs are the particular concern of Ms. Maloney, she is also starting a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called simply Charity Pro.

Meanwhile, she’s working at Bonefish Grill to make ends meet.

What the company needs now, explains Mr. Maloney, “is a philanthropic investor or two, someone who wants a return on their money but also to do some good in the world.”

Such people exist, maybe in much greater number than sometimes appears likely.

Keith Hudson thinks so, too.

“I think this is a great opportunity to give back,” he said. “And it can be a blessing to a lot of different people.”

Read the full story here

BY ROGER WILLIAMS
rwilliams@floridaweekly.com