Airgas Puritan Medical’s Senior Vice President Kelly Justice, third from left, brought together a team of colleagues at the GREAT STRIDES walk in Oaks, Penn.
“I have never had to worry about breathing,” said Kelly Justice, senior vice president of Airgas Puritan Medical, the nation’s leading distributor of medical gases and related products. “I just wake up and start my day.” For Justice, who has no personal connection to cystic fibrosis, getting involved with the CF Foundation made him appreciate every breath all the more, as well as understand the daily hardships of people with CF. “It really makes you want to help.”
And help he did. In 2005, after learning about the Foundation from Airgas Marketing Manager John Bookhout, a longtime CF volunteer, Justice encouraged Airgas to join a growing list of corporations to become a GREAT STRIDES national partner. Justice saw the charity as a way for Airgas associates nationwide to rally support for a national charity and raise the visibility of the Airgas Puritan Medical divisions that operated in each regional company.
Justice invited the CF Foundation to talk before more than 100 medical sales and management staff about the effects of CF and ways they could help. During the meeting, employees also had the chance to meet Terri Bromley, a CF mother and her son, Ryan. Putting a face to the CF Foundation’s mission proved deeply motivating.
The medical vice presidents in all 13 Airgas regional companies took up the challenge to support CF research, raising more than $50,000 in 2005 by forming walk teams, contacting company vendors for contributions, organizing letter-writing campaigns and holding competitions between departments. In addition, many vice presidents pledged to match all of the money raised by the company’s walkers in their region.
Pleased by the company’s efforts, Justice nevertheless wanted to do more the next year. In 2006, he brought together the regional vice presidents and asked, “Are you still behind the CF Foundation?” They answered with a resounding “Yes.” Airgas committed to raising even more for CF through a nationwide tour of two Airgas Choppers, custom motorcycles designed and built by Orange County Choppers. Donations collected in exchange for photos with the Airgas Choppers, plus participation in the GREAT STRIDES walks, added up to more than $220,000 by year-end.
For 2007, Airgas aims to raise $250,000 for its 25th anniversary through the Airgas Chopper tour and GREAT STRIDES events.
Justice noted there are unexpected benefits to partnering with the Foundation. Airgas associates grew closer after working together to raise money, and the company’s customer-base expanded as a result of increased name recognition.
“Of course, the greatest reward of this effort is seeing how Airgas has helped people affected by CF,” Justice remarked. “I remember receiving a thank you letter from a marketing manager in Airgas Southwest, who had lost his 6-year-old daughter to the disease. To be able to hear how you have helped a family, particularly one in your own company, made me even more proud to be supporting the CF Foundation.”