Pay It Forward: Knoxville businessman donates proceeds to community

"To see your son. You know he's going to be okay, but to see him flatline is an interesting experience." One man wanted to donate to charity through a different kind of business model.

"Observe the masses and do the opposite," Walt Disney said it, local businessman Mark Slaughter took it to heart.

He created a company not to primarily make money but to give it away.

Three words changed Slaughter's whole life.

"Feel my chest."

The words came from his 11-year-old son, his best friend Luke, during a routine football practice.

Loading ...

"It's like getting hit with a snowball in the summer. It came out of nowhere. And there's a sense of panic," Slaughter said.

He rushed his son to the hospital. The news was not good.

"To see your son. You know he's going to be okay,but to see him flatline is an interesting experience," Slaughter said.

"Heart stopped and I could feel for a couple seconds my legs hurting and tingly, and then my heart kicked back in, and I was fine," Luke said.

But an intense heart surgery at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital awaited.

"In there my wife would say I was in a fog, but trolling the halls and just wondering, 'What in the world am I doing here?'" Slaughter said. "When people are getting ready to do a procedure on your son's heart, you don't work your way to your knees, you fall and cut deals maybe and if you give me him back I'll do something."

And that was the moment Mark decided to make a change. His life before this moment was fine. He loved his family, was strong in his faith, but his work in medical device sales was uninspiring.

"It had really no value other than just making money, chasing green paper is what I call it," Slaughter said.

So 90 days after his son's life saving surgery, he quit his job with the hope he could create a life with purpose. He came up with an idea to start a medical device company but give away the bulk of the shares to charity.

"What if we gave it away instead of trying to get everything we can? Donating the units of our company allowed us to monthly send the profits out to a non-profit that would help us turn those profits made in the operating room into doing things in local, feeding hungry, disease research, ministries all over the world, orphanages all over the world," Slaughter said.

Loading ...

The first two years of On-Belay Medical were tough.

"At first no one believed us. Like what's your angle? What's your scheme? Would you really do that?" he said.

But slowly doctors started to believe, including Dr. Jay Crawford, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at East Tennessee Children's Hospital.

"I think this is the future of healthcare. The traditional business model for providing implants generates lots of profits that go other places and On-Belay helps us keep that here in East Tennessee, and that's Children's mission, and that's our mission," Dr. Crawford said.

These doctors are able to take the profits from these surgeries and donate the money to causes they value around the world. In just five years, On-Belay has expanded to five states, has donated $300,000 and 33 million medical implants for surgeries.

Luke is 100 percent cured. He's now a junior football player at Christian Academy of Knoxville.

"If you think we are put on earth just to live, make a living and die then it probably doesn't make sense. We were doing fine before On-Belay, but he decided to shake things up and take a risk and try something that had never been done before which can be really scary, but its turned out great and it makes me happy that I had a part in that," Luke said.

The first doctor who believed in On-Belay was Dr. Josh Miller, a neurosurgeon at UT Medical Center. He researched exactly where his money went and found just one month of surgeries funded 426 nights of shelter and 1,300 meals at a local homeless shelter. It also funded enough clean water for 50 people for 10 to 20 years in Africa.

This all by doing the job he does every day.