Rep Corner: An Opportunity to Help

Edition: December 2010 - Vol 18 Number 12
Article#: 3618
Author: Laura Thill

People in the healthcare business love to help others, says GOJO Industries (Akron, Ohio) rep Mike Carver. It’s a reflection of the kind of person who comes to work in this industry, he points out. So, each September when he and his family host the Friends of the Healthcare Industry fundraising golf tournament, as overwhelmed as he is by the outpour of support from his colleagues, dealer partners and friends, he’s not surprised. The event, which lasts a weekend, is an opportunity for business partners to “network, relax and support” the local Knoxville, Tenn. FISH hospitality pantry, says Carver. FISH is an all-volunteer organization with no employee or solicitation expenses, and 100 percent of the support goes toward food for the hungry. “The weekend is special because of our friends in healthcare, the very generous and loving people who love to share their blessings with others,” he says.

Since 1997, when Carver approached two friends and industry colleagues about organizing a golf tournament “to say thank you to our friends and customers in the healthcare industry for supporting us and our sales efforts,” the event has grown tremendously. “In 1997, my good friends, Greg Conner, who was with Paper Pak Products at the time, and Tim Cokkinias, who was with Convatec, liked the idea, and the three of us put together [our first] golf tournament,” says Carver. All three live in the Knoxville area and have supported the tournament from the start. “I think we only had 24 players that first year, and we raised about $500 for a local orphanage,” he recalls.

“About six years ago, we decided we would make a greater impact supporting the FISH hospitality pantry,” he continues. “I was introduced to the FISH ministry through my church. I volunteer at the FISH pantry and speak on [the organization’s] behalf whenever I have the opportunity.” In addition, Carver and his tournament co-chairs expanded the charity event to a full weekend getaway, hoping to attract more people.

Today, the Friends of the Healthcare Industry golf tournament draws closer to 250 attendees, including healthcare business associates, corporate sponsors (GOJO and B. Braun Medical), family and friends, and most recently raised almost $13,000, notes Carver. This money will enable FISH to purchase food for the 12,000 families it feeds each month, as well as a new freezer, he explains. “This year, we had attendees from 30 different states,” he says. “We are blessed to have some of the most trustworthy relationships in the healthcare industry. I have always believed that our customers and business partners could also be our friends and advocates. Our tournament and weekend event [has developed] a great reputation, and once one experiences it, they want to return.”

What it takes

Pulling off a major fundraiser is no small task, notes Carver, adding that his whole family contributes to the planning process. “We start planning 180 days out,” he says. “First, we block out a date and then [talk to] our corporate sponsors and any potential additional sponsors. We put together a budget and secure the golf course.” In addition to Conner and Cokkinias, Carver has enlisted the help of two other co-directors from his hometown, Huntington, W.Va. – Floyd Harlow and Mike Rigney. “This year, 42 people from my hometown attended the event,” he says.

“For our last event, we purchased 137 Tennessee University football tickets on e-Bay,” he continues. Of course, it’s impossible to acquire so many tickets in one transaction, he points out. “We bought two or four tickets each time!” In addition, they arranged rooms for all attendees, parking and local transportation. Carver’s wife, Ginny, oversaw food preparation; son Kirk oversaw transportation for guests; daughter Caroline was in charge of photography and refreshments; son Ryan hosted a party for attendees at Carver’s home; and son Clay hosted a tailgate party before the football game. In fact, three of Carver’s children traveled from hours away to attend and host the fundraiser.

The first evening that guests arrived, they attended a dinner at the Carver residence, which overlooks the Smoky Mountains. “This year, we featured live bands from Nashville,” says Carver. The following day, they attended the golf tournament. The executive director of the FISH hospitality pantry co-hosted a luncheon, and Carver’s pastor helped out with the post-tournament dinner (Calhoun’s ribs served on the golf course) and awards ceremony. “We have hosted the golf tournament for 13 years at beautiful Egwani Farms in Knoxville,” he says. “The owner of Egwani Farms, Lisa Franks, hosts over 20 tournaments per year, including Peyton Manning’s charity event, which supports St. Mary’s Health System.”

Before the weekend ended, guests also attended a tailgate party, followed by the Tennessee Volunteers football game. This year, fresh fish was flown in from Boston to be served at the tailgate party.

An emotional wrap-up

Whether or not attendees opted to golf, they all looked forward to the awards ceremony, which was an emotional event, says Carver. “We start the awards ceremony with a prayer of thanksgiving before giving away thousands of dollars in cash awards. Each winner comes forward to be introduced, photographed and presented his or her award.” Five teams and several individuals were awarded several hundred dollars each, and attendees entered into a drawing, which awarded about $1,000. “The winners choose whether they would like to donate all or part of their winnings to the charitable pantry,” says Carver. “It can be very moving to see someone win $1,000 and return all of it to the cause. This year, Chris Woods, sales director, national accounts, GOJO, won the $1,000 drawing. Chris donated all of it back to FISH in a very emotional presentation.” This has been the case for the last four or five years, he points out. And it’s not like everyone can’t use the extra cash themselves, he adds.

Not long after the weekend ended and the guests departed, Carver and his entourage began looking ahead to the following year’s event. “We have already started planning for next year’s event,” he says at press time. “Our plans are to continue for as long as we can make a difference. We have been very successful at providing our friends and associates with an opportunity to make a difference, and they are very appreciative.

“The recession has expanded the number of homeless and hungry in the Knoxville area very dramatically over the past few years,” he continues. “When I worked for the hospitality pantry the very first time, it was a life-changing experience. When you see the humbleness and happiness on your fellow man’s face, the thankfulness and love on the children’s faces, and [people] receiving food, which is something most of us take for granted, you never forget.” Furthermore, his charitable work has made him a better salesperson, he says. “It has made me a better listener and a more empathetic person,” he explains. “I’ve come to understand that in the sales process, I need to consider both sides.

“Every day, I look for an opportunity to help someone in need,” says Carver, who supports several other charitable organizations; including St. Jude Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., where his daughter interns; the Salvation Army, where he is often seen ringing the bell and accepting donations; and various ministries at his church. “I am very blessed,” he says. “An experience such as the Friends of the Healthcare Industry golf tournament makes one more compassionate and better able to deal with life’s storms.”