Searching for the Leadership Gene
More than 130 Volunteers From Across the Country Met to Discuss Strategies for Success

There is no room for argument. As C. Richard Mattingly, executive vice president and COO of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation says, “The moms and dads of those with CF can’t carry this battle solely on their backs. Strategies must be mapped out. Resources must be raised. And, volunteers must help lead this charge."

“Volunteers are extremely important to the CF Foundation because they are the ones creating that energy out there on the frontlines,” said Pam Mertz, a volunteer with the Minnesota Chapter.

So on March 18 and 19, Mertz and about 130 “Best of the Best” converged at the National Leadership Conference in Bethesda, Md., home to the CF Foundation’s national headquarters. The volunteers used this time to brainstorm methods to raise “new dollars” and bring in new recruits. This push comes right before the CF Foundation’s largest fund-raiser, Great Strides: Taking Steps to Cure CF. More than 500 walks are planned for the third weekend in May.

In only two years since the inception of the CF Foundation’s Volunteer Leadership Initiative (VLI), roughly 4,500 volunteers nationwide have been recruited and more than $16 million in new revenue has been raised. The goal for 2005? Another 2,000 new volunteers!

New goals bring new experiences and require training. So, at the conference, volunteers taught volunteers. Laura Staerker, executive director of the Northeastern New York chapter, said, “You were so empowered. You left with such energy, such enthusiasm. There was a tremendous amount of camaraderie.” While mingling, volunteers shared tips and advice. The workshops provided an even greater forum to share.

Amy and Peter Barry, National VLI co-chairs for 2003 and 2004, headed up the first workshop, “Sharing Ideas for Success.” The pair targeted strategies for a successful recruitment campaign, stressing the importance of cultivation events. The second session, “Searching for the Leadership Gene,” led by the 2005 National VLI Co-chairs, Margarete and Marc Cassalina, focused on the development of volunteers as well as gaining more corporate sponsors.

While volunteers are crucial to fund-raising efforts, corporations provide access to awider range of resources. The CF Foundation held an award ceremony to honor the relationships between the organization and its major corporate sponsors. American Airlines®, the Outstanding Corporate Partner of the CF Foundation, was recognized this year for their 20 years of commitment with an award bearing its name, “Spirit of American Award.” (Click here to see related story.) Other winners of this first-time award included Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. and Huntington Beach, Calif.-based BJ’s Restaurant. Bank of America received the “Star of Distinction Award” for making a commitment in 2004 to Great Strides and to working toward expanding their involvement in 2005 and beyond. Solvay Pharmaceuticals went home with the “Corporate Champion of Hope Award.”

Perhaps the most special honor of the night was the “Alex Award.” Frank Deford, chairman emeritus of the CF Foundation's Board of Trustees established this award in memory of his daughter, Alex, who lost her battle with CF when she was eight. This year, the award went to Kim Hill Tsamoutales of Orlando, Fla.

Kim Hill Tsamoutales
Kim Hill Tsamoutales tells a
crowd of volunteers that she is
proof that "Money buys science
and science buys life."
Photo by Rodney Choice.

Born in East Orange, N.J., Tsamoutales was diagnosed with CF when she was five. At 34, she now resides in Florida with her husband Frank, a state lobbyist who is working to pass legislation to mandate health insurance benefits for CF. Since 1999, the pair has been responsible for helping to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the CF Foundation.

Brian Hill, Kim’s father and NBA coach, said, “I’ve been around athletes all my life. I’ve seen guys play in great pain, and earn reputations for being courageous. But I’ve never been around anyone in my life who worked as hard, or is as brave, as Kim.” For her bravery, Kim was presented with an oil painting of a little girl blowing dandelion seeds, which was created by Paul Drury, director of special projects for the CF Foundation and an adult with CF, himself.

While the mission of the Leadership Conference was to find ways to recruit new volunteers, the current ones were equally celebrated. Gayle Greenberg, conference organizer, stated, “Our volunteers are a phenomenal group of people. There is a commitment level, there is a passion, that is contagious.” And, we’re hoping the passion will be caught by thousands in 2005.

Posted 03/25/05