Stepping Out as a New National Great Strides Team
Each spring, Unum employee Geoff Widlak and his family head out to their local Great Strides fundraising walks in Michigan to help the CF Foundation cure and control the disease that his wife, LeeAnne, lives with.
This year, the Widlaks had an extra bounce in their steps, knowing that hundreds of Unum employees from 16 offices across the nation were walking with them.
Reaching Out to Employees
As an employee of the Fortune 500 employee benefits company for 13 years, Geoff was well aware of Unum’s “huge focus on social responsibility and giving back to our communities.” Armed with evidence of the CF Foundation’s efficiency and mission, Geoff approached Cary Olson-Cartwright, Unum’s director of corporate social responsibility, with a goal: to secure the corporation’s endorsement of a national Great Strides team. Her answer? “Yes. What do you need me to do?”
Another employee, Steve Alpren, shared Cary’s can-do attitude and was instrumental in helping Geoff maximize Unum’s support by leveraging the company’s communications and fundraising resources. Unum contributed $50 for every walker, matched every employee donation of $50 or more and supplied walk day T-shirts.
The 40-miles-per-hour winds and freezing rains didn’t
dampen the spirits of walkers at this year’s Detroit GREAT
STRIDES. Six-year-old twins Abby and Libby Widlak
(front center) pose with parents LeeAnne and Geoff, a senior
market manager of Unum’s Michigan Office, and other
members of Unum Michigan.
With the strong support of Unum’s executives, Geoff reached out to his fellow employees through a letter-writing campaign that included a video of LeeAnne and Geoff sharing their story. “All of a sudden, we had five other offices that said, ‘We’ll absolutely do this!’ Then several more offices came on board.”
Walking Together for a Common Goal
Many other Unum employees whose lives have been touched by CF also shared their stories to encourage participation in the fundraising walks. At the Chattanooga, Tenn., Great Strides, five teams with nearly 70 Unum employees joined together to make a big impact. “Unum has been a wonderful partner in our fight to find a cure,” says Bridget Lane of the Chattanooga office. “We are so fortunate to work for a company with such a strong philanthropic commitment.”
Unum Great Strides teams from Seattle, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maine also came together to walk for the CF cause.
In their first year participating as a national Great Strides team, Unum and its employees raised more than $50,000 to benefit the Foundation. In addition, Geoff says, several employees were so touched by the stories of families they met that they’ve established new relationships with their local CF Foundation chapters.
In years ahead, Geoff hopes to encourage even more employees to walk and raise money for the CF cause. “The great thing about Great Strides is that it is more than just a walk,” he says. “When people see how the disease impacts families, they become more engaged and involved with helping to find a cure.”
back to top