Chicago, IL || September 2016 - - As it stands today, the Rolfe Foundation Young Professionals Board is composed of more than 30 dedicated volunteers. Each member serves on an organizational committee, fulfills an annual set of financial goals, and contributes to a formidable calendar of fundraising events. In 2015, the group raised just over $70,000 in support of early detection pancreatic cancer research. This year, it expects to top $100,000.
According to Maggie Brophy, the group’s founder, the whole endeavor stemmed, “from a wild, wild whim.” She chuckles a bit, then adds; “I’m only half kidding.”
The whim occurred in late 2008 when Maggie was twenty-two, fresh out of college, and navigating the challenges of a new city, job, apartment, and life. With what little free time she had, she was not, “thinking about organizing a team of volunteers to run an on-going series of large fundraisers.”
But then, on a non-descript day in November, while working as an associate for a commercial real estate firm, Maggie scheduled an appointment to show an office space to Lynda Robbins, the Executive Director of a local, growing non-profit, the Rolfe Foundation. The unit, as Ms. Robbins notes, wasn’t particularly striking. What was striking, however, was Maggie’s immediate interest in the mission of the Foundation.
"It really connected me with Rolfe’s mission – which is, in essence, to make stories like my family’s the norm, instead of the exception.” - Maggie Brophy
“My mother, Lorraine, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when I was a freshmen in high school,” explains Maggie. “And she beat it! The tumor was found early, she had a successful Whipple procedure – at that time she had been cancer free for seven years. She was the statistic. It's a rare story, I know, but it really connected me with Rolfe’s mission – which is, in essence, to make stories like my family’s the norm, instead of the exception.”
Maggie volunteered to get involved with Rolfe then and there. “I explained there were a number of things she could do,” remembers Ms. Robbins. “But I told her the thing the Foundation needed most was a pipeline to new members. We needed to start enlisting the next generation of impactful volunteers; which meant we needed a junior board.” Maggie didn’t hesitate.
“I said, “I’ll do it! Sign me up!” she recalls, laughing at her gumption.
By her own admission, Maggie didn’t know what she getting into. Building a membership, setting fundraising goals, organizing tax-deductible events – all of it was new territory. But she dug right in.
Maggie was the fiery engine behind the first three years of the Young Professional Board’s every effort. She rallied her friends and family (“I forced people to be involved”), wore every hat (“I was simultaneously President, Treasurer, and Secretary”), actively courted potential members (“basically anyone who showed even the slightest interest was invited to a meeting”), organized events (“lots of small meet-and-greets”), and eventually, slowly but surely, her passion attracted other like-minded movers and shakers.
By 2011, Maggie had recruited a core membership who would help establish the group’s two annual signature events: Cruisin’ for a Cure, and the YPB Holiday Party. “What she did is amazing,” observes Robin Goldberg, a 2011 recruit and the longtime chair of Cruisin’ for a Cure. “Joining something like this and finding the time to even be a significant volunteer is one thing – but building it from scratch? It blows me away.”
During Maggie’s eight-year tenure with the Young Professionals Board, she has changed jobs twice, moved to and from Los Angeles, has made significant strides in her career, and even got married. Very recently, she “graduated” from the confederation she founded, and joined the Rolfe Foundation’s overning Board of Directors, the first member of YPB to make that leap. “It’s well earned and about time,” says Board President Kevin Braude. “We’re thrilled to have her.”
Through it all, her parents couldn’t have been prouder. “They’re happy for me all the time,” Maggie muses, “but I know my mother has always been especially delighted by my work with Rolfe.”
Sadly, during the course of this writing, Lorraine’s health declined. She had endured a series of health issues in the last several years, and died on August 16th, 2016, She went with her friends and family surrounding her, as they had all her life. They took solace and found pride in the fact that her death was not caused by cancer; she fought it twice, and won.
Following her mother’s passing, Maggie was given an opportunity to recuse herself from her current duties, co-chairing the YPB Holiday Party. She declined to step aside, however, and instead is determined to double down in her efforts. “What my mother taught me is that you cannot give up or stop fighting. She knew how lucky she was to overcome her initial diagnosis – but she never considered her life afterwards to be ‘extra’ time. She fought for it - for herself, and even more so for her family. She saw both her daughters married and met her first grandchild! I will always miss her, of course, but I’d rather celebrate her life than mourn her death. I think she’d want me to help give hope to others, and not wallow in hopelessness myself.”
"I’d rather celebrate her life than mourn her death. I think she’d want me to help give hope to others, and not wallow in hopelessness myself.” - Maggie Brophy
Maggie points out that thus far, YPB has raised approximately $60,000 in 2016; which means to reach $100,000 for the year, the Holiday Party needs to take in $40,000. It’s a formidable goal, especially for a junior board. Yet to the surprise of no one who knows her, Maggie is undeterred.
If you want to support Maggie and join her at the event, you won’t need to go looking for her, she’ll find you. She will undoubtedly encourage you to volunteer, and join the Young Professionals Board.
Hopefully she will once again be successful.
Published: September 13, 2016.
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This article also appears as part of the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation's
electronic newsletter, The Catalyst (Vol. 3, September 2016 - The Next Generation issue).
To read more dispatches from The Catalyst, please click the links below.