Departments - September/October 2009

Case in Point

Giving Back & Making a Difference
Helping Others Can Breed a Sense of Optimism

By Catherine Eberlein Pfister


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ad news getting to you? In a world where we too often hear about corporate greed and our ailing economy, it's sometimes difficult to get away from 24x7 sensational doomsday news coverage. But there are plenty of bright spots out there.

Whether in very personal, individual ways or through company-wide efforts that are tied to recognition programs, there are many people giving back and making a difference in the lives of individuals and their communities. We went looking for some of their stories, and what we found gives us hope and inspiration. We hope it does the same for you.

One Mom Provides Second Chance

It's amazing how total strangers can connect to change a life. Every year thousands of men, women and children get life-threatening diseases that can be treated with cellular therapies such as bone marrow or cord blood therapies. "But 70 percent of these patients do not have a matched donor in their family. They depend on the National Marrow Donor Program to help them find an unrelated donor," according to the Be The Match Foundation in Minneapolis.

A 5-year-old boy may have a second chance at life as the result of a late August bone marrow transplant from Wisconsin mom, Kim Jenkins. Jenkins, who has worked at Oshkosh-based Top Brands for 11 years, was first tested in 1999 when her husband's niece was diagnosed with leukemia. She has been tested three times since then to become a donor. Then in late July 2009, news came that she was indeed a match.

That's when Jenkins found out she could be a bone marrow donor for a young boy who suffers from chronic granulomatous disease. About one in a million people have CGD, a disorder in which immune system cells called phagocytes do not function properly. It leads to ongoing bone, skin and joint infections, frequent pneumonia and a host of chronic, painful issues.

"The parents of the boy were devastated," Jenkins explained. "As a parent, I can only imagine what this family is going through and would only hope if someone in my family was in the same situation there would be a donor that would come through. I cannot describe how I feel to be able to do this for someone!"

Walking for Hope & Building Playgrounds

Team members at Phoenix-based Fairytale Brownies participate in several community fundraisers. One of them, the Phoenix Walk for Hope, is a breast cancer walk to raise dollars in support of breast cancer research, treatment and education programs at City of Hope. The organization holds a series of 5-K walks and runs throughout the country.

Team members, their families and friends meet at a designated area on an early Sunday morning in October, and as they walk through the Phoenix Zoo, they hand out "reject" brownies to other walkers, explained Eileen Spitalny, the company's co-founder, sales and PR team leader.

"The treat is a nice pick-me-up and a surprise gift to the other walkers," she said. "Fairytale team members dress alike for easy recognition and team building. Last year, everyone tried to wear at least one pink item—there were at least four men/teens wearing pink socks to maintain the team spirit."

As a company, Fairytale Brownies also donates centerpieces and raffle prizes to the Walk for Hope planning committee as it prepares for the October event. These prizes go to the various captains who are encouraging their teams to raise funds. Although the company does not pay its team members to participate in the walk, it donates to the team fund and sponsors an in-house raffle for customers to contribute.

"We also donate to KaBOOM! (www.kaboom.org), which builds playgrounds for kids," Spitalny added. "When customers purchase a special occasion gift we give a monetary donation, and the 'builds' across the country get three gifts donated for each build for their funding partners. When a build is in the Phoenix metro area we try to send out as many team members as possible."

She added, "We have built a playground with Kurt Warner at a charter school, we have built a playground for the Foundation for Blind Children and one time we reseeded a baseball field. As one of the owners I have had the unique opportunity to build in other cities when I have been on business travel. It is such a rewarding experience wherever it happens!"