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Keeping It in the Community: Ron Foley Foundation

Ron's Run Park 'N Picnic. Courtesy photo

In a collaboration between the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and the Town of West Hartford’s Economic Development Coordinator, We-Ha.com has been publishing tips and spotlighting West Hartford businesses as they continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hartford Marathon Foundation Team RFF. Courtesy photo

Editor’s Note: This column has been running as a section of the weekly Business Buzz since fall 2020, but is now being launched as a separate feature. Links will continue to be included in Business Buzz as well.

All businesses that are featured in Keeping It in the Community have been sent identical questions. Responses may be edited for length or format, but otherwise are the statements of the respondent. Photos, except where noted, have also been provided by the business.

Tips have been submitted by the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce.

Keeping It in the Community Tip: Local nonprofits are vital to the community

Ask yourself, “What causes are important to you?”

Mission-driven nonprofit organizations come in all shapes and sizes and address myriad causes. Some are large national and international organizations bringing awareness and providing assistance to major global illnesses and social issues. There are also regional and local ones focusing on hunger, literacy, and issues of disparity. There are even homegrown nonprofit organizations founded by a person or group who may have witnessed or experienced something in their own lives. They are born out of desire to make a difference or influence change.

West Hartford is home to countless organizations such as the ones described here. They all rely on community support in the way of financial assistance, sponsorship, and volunteerism. Ask yourself, “What is important to me; and how can I help make a difference?”

Keeping It in the Community Spotlight: Ron Foley Foundation

Submitted by Barbara Foley, founder and president

Q: How long has your business been in West Hartford, do you have other locations, and what is your relationship to the business?

I founded the Ron Foley Foundation in 2009, in memory of my husband Ron who passed away from pancreatic cancer. I have served as president of the Foundation since then. My home on Stoner Drive in West Hartford was our first “office.” We outgrew the kitchen table in 2012 and moved to our current office at 1000 Farmington Avenue. We now have an amazing staff of four part-time employees, including Monica Lamoureux, Judie Goldenthal, Cathy Lou King, and Executive VP Jennifer Loughran. We all love the convenience of our West Hartford Center location!

Banner in West Hartford Center. Courtesy photo

Q: What has been the impact of COVID-19 on the way your business operates?

Like many businesses, our staff has been working remotely, with brief coordinated visits to the office to pick up mail. We have several Zoom staff meetings each week, often lasting for a few hours, and frequent calls, emails, and texts as needed.

The toughest ramification of COVID-19 on the organization has been the need to replace our in-person volunteer meetings and soldier on with Zoom. The Ron Foley Foundation could not accomplish what it does without the unfailing support of our dedicated volunteers. I looked forward to our volunteer meetings and believed they did as well – and not just for the pizza but also for the brainstorming, the laughs, and the hugs. Not everyone is comfortable using Zoom.

Awareness programs that we support, such as Hartford HealthCare’s “Ask The Experts,” went virtual and direct communication with donors and sponsors became even more important. Due to the cancellation of our major annual fundraising event, the 2020 Ron’s Run for the Roses, we delayed funding grants for medical research projects. I’m happy to say that we are now back on track and are currently accepting research grant requests.

Patient outreach has been our top priority. Through our Ron’s Rescue Fund we continue to provide direct financial aid to pancreatic cancer patients in need, and during the pandemic this program has grown.

Q: What measures have you taken to mitigate risk to employees and customers?

We suspended all in-person meetings and any requirement for staff members to work in the office. The most important thing to me is for everyone to feel safe and to be safe. In addition, any meetings with vendors, social workers, medical professionals, and committees are done virtually. With our upcoming fundraiser, the 12th Annual Ron’s Run for the Roses on May 1 at Folly Farm in Simsbury, our auction committee members come to the office alone or in limited numbers to input and package the auction items. Everyone wears a mask and practices social distancing.

Q: What have you had to do differently to promote your business?

Several events had to be canceled including our major fundraiser, Ron’s Run for the Roses scheduled for May 7, 2020. To commemorate that day with our volunteers, sponsors, vendors and supporters, we held a virtual cocktail party and called it Ron’s Run Reset. West Hartford native, actor and director, James Naughton, Joe Furey of WTNH, and Tim Parker, VP of New Country Motor Cars, our wonderful Presenting Sponsor, all helped us pull-off a very entertaining and successful afternoon. It was our first virtual event and I can’t thank our incredible staff enough for creating something so professional and well attended in so short a time.

In addition, our group of runners, Team RFF, which typically participates in the Eversource Hartford Marathon, ran from home at their own pace. It seems like people enjoyed this format for many runners joined the team and raised more than we ever had in the past.

Ron’s Run Park ‘N Picnic. Courtesy photo

Q: What are some of the successes you have had?

In September 2020, we held our first hybrid fundraising event called Park ‘n Picnic for Pancreatic Cancer. Guests had the option to attend virtually or in person at Folly Farm in Simsbury. Following strict COVID-19 rules and regulations, and with the help of Alison Patricelli whose family owns Folly Farm, we turned the venue into a deluxe drive-in movie theater complete with gourmet picnic baskets and blankets. Each car had its own private area beside it to set up chairs and enjoy the auctions and live entertainment provided by our Honorary Chair, James Naughton, in their own safe space. It was a beautiful day and a great success. This event provided us with the new model for our upcoming 12th Annual Ron’s Run for the Roses on May 1, which guests may attend either drive-in style or virtually, wearing Derby attire, enjoying Mint Juleps, and live coverage of the Kentucky Derby on our giant screen.

Ron’s Run Park ‘N Picnic. Courtesy photo

During November, National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, the Foundation typically stages several events. While it was necessary to cancel most plans, our “Power of Purple” banners still hung on the light posts in West Hartford Center for the month and several West Hartford businesses helped us raise awareness and funds in creative ways.

Courtesy photo

We launched our “Punch out Pancreatic Cancer” initiative by encouraging members of the community to visit various participating retailers in West Hartford to shop and receive a punch on a card for a chance to win a prize. We realize that during COVID small businesses did not have the traffic they once had, and we felt that combining our presence in the community, during awareness month, with a call to action was a great way to help us raise awareness while helping our retail neighbors. In addition, we had restaurants in town step up to create fun, signature menu items with proceeds of sales going to the Foundation. For example, Donut Crazy created a special purple donut, and the Artisan created a wonderful purple cocktail to raise awareness.

The Ron Foley Foundation is located at 1000 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. For more information, visit their website.

Purple doughnuts at Donut Crazy. Courtesy photo

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