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Spirit of Sharing
From March of Dimes to the River North Business Association, why do so many Cushing employees get involved with their community?
In the City of Broad Shoulders, it doesn’t happen by accident.
When a management team leads by example, it comes naturally.
In November, Executive Vice President, Joe Cushing received the Spirit of Life Award at City of Hope’s annual gala. Recognizing over twenty years of support and volunteer work, hundreds of Chicago business leaders gathered to celebrate.
Since it’s inception, the Chicago business community has rallied around City of Hope to raise awareness in the fight against cancer, diabetes, and other life-threating illnesses.
Past recipients include Meredith O’Connor, Mark Dewalt, Richie Stein – the list goes on – and all share a similar mindset: No one had sights set on an award.
Each has sought to create change, inspire, and make an impact.
While the celebration may have ended, the work continues.
We had the opportunity to find out more about Joe’s commitment to City of Hope, why people volunteer, and much more.
How did you first get involved with City of Hope?
Initially, I was asked by a client, and while attending that event I absorbed the significance of what we had accomplished on his (Bill O’Neil’s) dinner committee, and pressed the director to be on the board. Shortly after I joined, my family lost two siblings to cancer (pancreatic and cervical) which bolstered my enthusiasm, and knowledge.
What makes this organization different from others Cushing supports?
There are so many good organizations. This is an investment into humankind and our future, along with technology that is so beyond the normal person’s grasp. Reading the company history, City of Hope began by granting treatment and human dignity to people dying of Tuberculosis, in the first decades of this century. That concept helps differentiate this as well.
Why should people get involved with City of Hope?
Because cancer and diabetes affect us all!
There is an undercurrent of incredibly passionate, positive people in this organization from top to bottom, making the effort rewarding, interesting and very uplifting.
How can people in Chicago (and beyond) get involved and support City of Hope?
Our Leadership council is about 30 active members. In Real Estate & Construction, there are two other groups of about 15-20 each, who take the lead on the REACH Social event at House of Blues for Rock & Roll lovers, and the Future Leaders Council.
The council holds two incredible fundraisers each year, along with at least one other fun event for the people who are able to stay out past 10:00 p.m. and still make it to work the next day!
If you add up the people who attend, we have a couple thousand in Chicago alone.
What do volunteer opportunities normally involve (Is it a mix of responsibilities?)
Joining a committee typically involves attendance at a few events, and helping anywhere you can.
I tell people who want to fast track the process, to get involved, and help raise a little money as swiftly as possible. Selling tables, tickets, or encouraging sponsors to contribute (food, drink, music, money) always gets the attention of those on the council.
Cushing employees offer to help at all the events, even though they are not seeking a spot on a leadership committee.
Are there specific people (personal or professional) you have personally seen positively impacted by City of Hope?
I have made calls and introduced families on about 8-10 occasions. Each time they are put in touch with a person from City of Hope, who will do anything they can (from counseling to seeking a second opinion, to treatment).
I personally was guided through a process for a clinical trial and turned out to be too young! I recently introduced a doctor (at our event) to a family that received multiple hour-long treatment counseling sessions even though they never hired him as their physician!!
Who are some of Chicago’s business leaders that are active in City of Hope and share your passion for the organization?
There are so many I am proud to list.
Mike Szkatulski of Cotter Consulting, a veteran ex-honoree who was acting President of our Council when I joined. Mike is present with us 9 times out of 10 when we take the annual trip to the City of Hope Campus with his wife Laur. He is such a great leader and friend, while soft spoken, he always has great input in our annual mission. I have met some great friends, such as Dan Ryan and Meredith O’Connor from JLL .
John DiCiurcio of Turner, Mike McInerney of Titan Electric, who remains very active, and people like Dan Sullivan, cancer survivor from HOK, Paul Helmer from Krez Group, also a cancer survivor. These guys still stay involved every year, investing in the long-term mission. Meanwhile, our council is led in part by Dan Cronin also with Turner, who always sets the bar for fundraising.
Add in the Reach Social and you see unbelievable efforts from guys like Rick Dupraw from Leopardo and Lee Golub of Golub Company, combining their passion for a cure with their passion for Rock and Roll !
AND I am so proud the most notable outcome of the past twenty-five years. As I wrapped up my talk on November 8th, a long-time pal and annual attendee to our event: Frank Gurtz of Gurtz Electric, informed me that my acceptance speech hit him pretty hard, and he was prepared to make the most significant contribution we have ever seen.
Our total pledge up to that point was about $650,000 and Frank stepped in and made a 7-year pledge, $50K per year, to bring our 2017 total to $1 million!!!!
This was probably the most emotional discussion I will ever engage in while raising money, even for a magical place like City of Hope. Frank and his wife Gail could not have been happier with their decision and could not have acted more generously or thoughtfully!
Now that you have been recognized as a Spirit of Life award recipient, what’s next in your volunteer work and support of City of Hope?
I just committed to return as Council President; City of Hope Chicago lost our 15-year veteran executive director: Sarah Maraccini, who is now with Whitney Architects so we have some giant shoes to fill.
We intend to set up a self-perpetuating group of leaders, nurturing the enthusiasm of our future leaders, to build a scale-able program to last for many years… until we move on or until they find a cure for cancer!
City of Hope brings together a broad ranges of leaders from numerous industries and businesses. Each share a common goal: “elevating the human condition and a profound belief in the power of each individual to effect change.” Considering getting involved or want to learn more? Visit City Of Hope’s Chicago site.