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Team Building Manny's Way

Manny Lezama (left), pictured with Jessica and Robert "Woody" Wilson, from the Western New York Chapter, uses his expertise in the fine food and wine industry to raise funds at the Greater Niagara BassEye Celebrity Challenge and other events around the nation.

Manny Lezama knows a thing or two about fine food and wine. As General Manager of Campus Food Service Group at Rich Products in Buffalo, N.Y., he has business savvy to spare. Since 2003, Lezama has applied his talents to a whole new cause: raising dollars to support research by the CF Foundation.

Lezama's involvement with CF began when he first met Nicole Ellis, daughter of Redbone Celebrity Fishing Tournament Series founder Gary Ellis. "Nicole was the first person I had met who had CF," said Lezama. "Her incredible bravery in fighting the disease and her optimism that a cure will be found just moved me. I had to help in some way."

Since then, he has lent his considerable expertise to the Western New York Chapter's Greater Niagara BassEye Celebrity Challenge and other events around the nation, finding ways to limit costs on food and beverage design without sacrificing quality and helping to draw new supporters to the event. "I've got a lot of good contacts in the food business," said Lezama, "and one way or another, I get them to pitch in." The BassEye tournament has become an annual favorite in Western New York, raising more than $145,000 in 2007.  

But that's not all. Lezama has contributed his energy and passion to the Foundation's largest national fund-raising event, GREAT STRIDES, embracing it as an opportunity to get "everyone including your dog" involved. To start, Lezama drafted letters to Rich Products associates asking them to act as department captains and recruit teams of walkers to participate in GREAT STRIDES. To date, in response to his letters, Rich Products associates have formed eight independent teams with 14 members each. "Working together to support GREAT STRIDES has truly brought out the family spirit at Rich Products," said Lezama.

His leadership has not stopped there. Lezama is often the first to come up with new fund-raising ideas, and he has helped to arrange for an enticing array of prizes for the team with the highest total — including a special dinner prepared by Lezama himself. "Nicole has shown me that faith and persistence in research will eventually lead to a cure," said Lezama. "I say the sooner the better, and I'm doing all I can to help."