Foundation’s Annual VLI Meeting Sends “Key” Messages
to Volunteer Leaders

March 13, 2008

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation volunteer leaders from Minnesota Pam and Lou Mertz are delighted by the energy at the conference.
VLI Co-chairs Pam and Lou Mertz are delighted by the energy at the conference.
“The level of collective energy is just amazing,” said Pam Mertz, Volunteer Leadership Initiative (VLI) co-chair. “Every year, I’m more impressed by the incredible dedication and enthusiasm of our volunteer leaders.”

VLI Co-chairs Pam and Lou Mertz were among the more than 250 volunteer leaders and Foundation staff from across the country who gathered in Falls Church, Va., March 6-8 for the Volunteer Leadership Initiative (VLI) conference. Held each year to recognize volunteers for their outstanding fund-raising efforts, the three-day meeting offers volunteers the chance to greet old friends and mingle with new ones, attend learning workshops and learn about the Foundation’s latest initiatives.

The meeting kicked off with “March on the Hill,” the Foundation’s annual advocacy outreach effort which brings together volunteers and members of Congress in Washington, D.C. This year, a group of 41 volunteers from 20 different states attended 60 meetings with elected officials to discuss matters of importance to the CF community, such as greater awareness for cystic fibrosis and greater access to CF care and medications.

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Metro DC volunteer and Volunteer Leadership Initiative Conference keynote speaker Don Wood gives a rousing speech.
Longtime volunteer and keynote speaker Don Wood gives a rousing speech.
Throughout the conference, the message to volunteers was clear: “You are the Key.” During the learning sessions, volunteers were given plastic keys to signify the vital role they play in recruiting new volunteer leaders, unlocking great fund-raising potential and, ultimately, finding a cure for CF.

On Friday, the Foundation recognized chapters that achieved the most successful VLI programs in 2007, including South Florida, the Sooner Chapter’s Tulsa Office, and the Greater Illinois Chapter’s Chicago Office. Awards for most revenue growth that year were handed out to Oregon, Greater New York, Western New York, San Diego, the Wisconsin Chapter’s Madison Office, and the Sooner Chapter’s Oklahoma Office. Foundation Senior Vice President of Field Management Ann Palmer said, “What an incredible group of fund-raisers. We can all learn from the efforts of these dynamic chapters.”

In recognition of their longtime support, corporate sponsors Airgas Puritan Medical, Kohl’s department store chain, BJ’s Restaurants Foundation, and Solvay Pharmaceuticals received special awards. While accepting his company’s award, Solvay representative Matt Casbon in turn surprised the Foundation with a check for $300,000.

Margarete and Marc Cassalina present the "Rose in the Garden of Life" award to teen Brittany Hambright.
Margarete and Marc Cassalina present the "Rose in the Garden of Life" award to 18-year-old Brittany Hambright.
The highlight of a special Friday evening dinner was an award given in memory of Jena Cassalina, who after a valiant battle with CF died in 2006 at age 13. Jena’s parents Margarete and Marc Cassalina movingly recognized 18-year-old Brittany Hambright with the “Rose in the Garden of Life” award for her innovative Stamp Out CF program involving local youth on behalf of her best friend, Ashley, who has CF.

Executive Vice President and COO C. Richard Mattingly aptly summed up the spirit conveyed throughout the conference: “Twenty years ago, we only had hopes and dreams. Today, we’re seeing promising developments in our medical research, newly emerging therapies and longer life for people with CF. And for this, we are eternally indebted to our volunteers.”