Chicago, IL - - Art Mollenhauer was excited. He was about to participate in his first Rolfe Foundation event since joining the Board of Directors. He had recruited around 50 friends and family members to join his team, and it looked like he was on track to raise $20,000 to support early detection pancreatic cancer research. And then, when the day of the race arrived, it rained.
“It didn’t just rain,” Mr. Mollenhauer laughs. “It was miserable.”
That may be an understatement. In the midst of an otherwise temperate and cloudless May, DASH for Detection 2015 took place on a strikingly gray, wet and cold morning. Before and after the race, runners and walkers crowded for warmth in a hastily constructed massage tent, and eyed coffee-sipping volunteers enviously. “It was a blast!” says Art, still chuckling.
Should his cheery recollection of a bone-chilling 5K not give him away, let it be understood: Art Mollenhauer quickly strikes you as a man for whom the glass is usually half-full. In conversation, it is instantly clear that he is affable, generous, and kind. This is an impression further supported once you learn about his day job: Mr. Mollenhauer is the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, an organization that annually serves approximately 1,700 young people. For ten years now, he has spent his days working on behalf of Chicago’s underserved youth populations, and has helped young people realize their potential via impactful, one-on-one mentorships. He has also, according to numerous accounts, helped shepherd BBBS itself to a newfound level of organizational excellence.
“Maybe it wasn’t ideal weather,” Mr. Mollenhauer concedes, “but we were there to honor my wife. And she was tough. She would’ve bundled up, grinned, and braved a hailstorm for a good cause – so how could I not? In a way it was very fitting.”
Mr. Mollenhauer’s wife, Ida, a chef who ran her own catering company, lost a brief and brave battle with pancreatic cancer in April of 2013, only forty days after her initial diagnosis. She was fifty-four. As Mr. Mollenhauer laments, it was like too many stories of pancreatic cancer: quick and horrible. “But eventually, what do you do?” Mr. Mollenhauer asks. “There’s a choice. You can sit, stew, mourn and watch Netflix non-stop or you can be proactive. I’m lucky. I spent 28 truly wonderful years with my wife. I know she wouldn’t want me to spend the next 28 on the couch.”
Not long after Ida died, Mr. Mollenhauer was connected with the Rolfe Foundation, and he quickly displayed his determination to contribute to the Foundation’s mission. He viewed DASH for Detection as the opportunity for him to make his greatest impact, and once he decided to field a team, he immediately went to work developing it, and promoting the event. His friends and family rallied to him, and the experience of organizing an effort to honor his wife became a singularly therapeutic outlet.
“Working in philanthropy professionally, I have a serious appreciation for the work of the Rolfe Foundation,” Mr. Mollenhauer reflected recently. ”I’m very impressed with the organization’s efforts, and I consider it a real honor - and a tremendous compliment - that a group like this wants to include me. I’m humbled by it, and I see it as a charge to make as big a difference as I can, and to really leave a legacy.”
"I have a serious appreciation for the work of the Rolfe Foundation,” [...] and I consider it a real honor - and a tremendous compliment - that a group like this wants to include me. I’m humbled by it, and I see it as a charge to make as big a difference as I can..."
When the day of the race came, despite the weather, no one backed out. Jackets and smiles were aplenty, and the bustling team, aptly named Run for Ida, brought in approximately $23,000, and was DASH for Detection 2015’s most successful fundraising team. “Art really hit the ground running,” notes Rolfe Executive Director Lynda Robbins. “He quickly became very active in our work, and his enthusiastic participation and accomplishment in the DASH has been outstanding. He’s also been a wonderful resource for us organizationally. He obviously knows the world of non-profits and philanthropy intimately, and he’s been able to offer us unique and insightful perspectives on our work.”
With DASH for Detection 2016 less than a month away, Mr. Mollenhauer is eager for his next race, as he aims to try and replicate the success of his inaugural outing. As for the weather? “Rain or rainbows – I don’t care,” says Mr. Mollenhauer. “I know Ida will be there either way, so we will too.”
Published: March 15th, 2016
If you would like to support Art’s efforts at DASH for Detection 2016 and contribute to
his team, Run For Ida, or if you wish to make a general donation to the
Rolfe Foundation, follow the links below.
This article also appears as part of the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation’s
electronic newsletter, The Catalyst (Vol. 2, March 2015 - the profiles issue). To
read more dispatches from The Catalyst, please click the links below.