New Jersey agents are co-winners of Rough Notes' Community Service Award
Their foundation helps families dealing with childhood cancer
By Bob Bloss
A somber conversation around a kitchen table in a pleasant New Jersey neighborhood one night more than a decade ago led to the creation of an organization that embodies the essence of community service—an organization that has grown into a forceful and nationally respected charitable institution.
The two long-time friends and colleagues whose kitchen chat that quiet evening sparked the formation of the Family Reach Foundation are James Colangelo and Richard Morello of ADP/Statewide Insurance Agencies, Inc., in Florham Park, New Jersey. They discussed the similar tragic losses each had experienced: the death of James' 12-year-old son, Christopher, and the death of Richard's 27-year-old daughter, Kristine—both from cancer. Then they talked about how they might honor the memory of Christopher and Kristine.
James Colangelo and Richard Morello have been named co-winners of The Rough Notes Company's 14th annual Community Service Award for their work in establishing and running the Family Reach Foundation, which supports families who confront the challenges of pediatric cancer. They were honored at the annual Rough Notes Marketing Agency of the Year awards banquet, which was held in Indianapolis in March.
If the names of the two honorees seem familiar, it's because in 2004 Colangelo and Morello received a Community Service Award honorable mention from Rough Notes for founding Family Reach. The foundation has expanded significantly since then. Today roughly 600 families of oncology patients in 18 hospitals nationwide are being assisted by Family Reach Foundation grants. Seventy-five percent of the patients are children; the other patients are of young adult age.
Colangelo is a property/casualty producer at ADP/Statewide, and Morello is marketing director of the agency's personal lines division. They met and became friends in the early 1990s when they were associates at Prudential.
After 12-year-old Christopher Colangelo succumbed to a neuroblastoma in 1981, James and his wife, Andrea, started the Christopher Colangelo Home Care Fund. Fourteen years later, the Morello family lost 27-year-old married daughter Kristine Morello-Wiatrak to Ewing's sarcoma.
In 1996, with support from the Morello family, the fund began to operate as the Colangelo/Morello-Wiatrak Cancer Fund. In 2003 it was launched as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called the Family Reach Foundation.
Easing the burden
While visiting their hospitalized children at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, Colangelo and Morello became familiar with the critical needs of cancer-afflicted families. They encountered other parents who were faced with long-running and often unexpected expenses beyond the medical care itself.
The mission of the Family Reach Foundation is to ease the financial burdens that typically challenge the families of young cancer patients: mortgage payments, utility bills, transportation and hotel expenses, medical costs not covered by insurance, child care, and lost wages if a parent must be absent from work. Assistance from the foundation allows families the freedom to focus on care and treatment for their child.
Families do not receive funds directly from the foundation; instead, it distributes grants to the providers of goods and services that assist families. Examples are mortgage lenders, utility companies, car rental agencies, ambulance services, travel agencies, grocery stores, restaurants, baby sitters, auto repair shops, and other enterprises that provide necessities to families. Certified social workers, authorized by patients' hospitals and physicians, act as liaisons between Family Reach and the suppliers.
To identify families in need, Family Reach initially approached hospitals in the Northeast corridor: New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan; St. Barnabas Medical Center and Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Jersey, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Other hospitals in the Family Reach network are Massachusetts General and Tufts Floating Hospital for Children in Boston; Rhode Island Hospital in Providence; Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York; New Jersey's Morristown Memorial, Newark Beth Israel, and Valley Hospital in Ridgewood; Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Johns Hopkins-Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore; Lurie Hospital for Children in Chicago; and in California, the University of California-San Francisco Benoit Children's Hospital, Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University in Palo Alto.
A family affair
True to its name, the Family Reach Foundation is a family affair. Morello's son, Rick Jr., is president of the board, and his brother, Brian, is manager of marketing and development. Andrea Colangelo is vice president and secretary of the board, and son-in-law Christopher Wiatrak is a board member. Serving as executive director is Carla Tardif, who has broad experience in philanthropic development.
The Foundation's major fundraiser, an annual golf tournament in New Jersey, is now in its 17th year. In July some 150 golfers will participate in the New Jersey Golf Classic. Brian manages the Chicago Golf Classic, which will be played for the first time in June. Last October the foundation's fifth annual San Francisco Golf Classic, supported by Genentech, raised over $128,000. At golf outings and other events, children and their families who have been assisted by Family Reach are invited to be special guests.
In addition to the foundation's annual golf outings, a series of celebrity chef Cooking Live events have been major revenue generators. Among other fundraising events are fun runs and walks, dinner dances, and an indoor cycling event. In 2012 the foundation generated $50,000 in revenue from runners who participated in the Boston Marathon.
The Rough Notes Community Service Award co-winners know that their organization's growth and success depend on the efforts of countless dedicated sponsors, donors, consultants, and volunteers.
"Foremost among the many individuals whom Rick and I recognize for their caring support from Day One," Colangelo, says, "are Paul Monacelli, CEO of ADP/Statewide Insurance Agencies, and Donna Cunningham, president. They've been responsible for significant individual and corporate donations to Family Reach. They also contact various organizations they know that give to charities, and they continually inform major companies within the insurance industry about us."
Cunningham, who last year was named Professional Agent of the Year by PIA of New Jersey, is a founder of the New Jersey Business Forum, which helps women become agency owners. It's not surprising that she and friends have encouraged insurance professionals and other groups to support the Family Reach Foundation.
It was Monacelli who nominated his two friends and co-workers for the Rough Notes Community Service Award. "Their commitment to helping other people has continually been a focus of their lives," he said. "Look what Rick and Jim have done from that kitchen table conversation of theirs, and look where they are today after taking that first step. That's the great story of Family Reach.
"And throughout their years of hard work for Family Reach," Monacelli added, "there's been no interruption of their devotion to daily responsibilities in our agency family."
As winners of the 2013 Rough Notes Community Service Award, Jim Colangelo and Rick Morello Sr. received a $5,000 check from the Rough Notes Company, and each man also was given a handsome engraved eagle sculpture.
The Rough Notes Company salutes the many other agents and agencies that were nominated for the 2013 Community Service Award. All of them reflect the commitment to community service that is typically exhibited by America's insurance industry professionals.
Rough Notes magazine will publish its annual Award Conditions and Prerequisites information in its monthly issues in late 2013. Readers are invited to nominate deserving agents and agencies for the 2014 Community Service Award.
Community Service Award Past winners
2000 Al Singer, Teaneck, New Jersey—initiated People Against Starving Children program.
2001 Dick Lees, Pana, Illinois—promoted funding for local hospital's emergency unit.
2002 Kenneth Felton, Vero Beach, Florida—impetus to develop local Boys & Girls Clubs.
2003 Jack and Jason Rua, Fall River, Massachusetts—raised funds for United Way.
2004 Harry Swimmer, Charlotte, North Carolina—operates therapeutic horseback riding clinic.
2005 Jim McGovern, Belmont, California—Leukemia & Lymphoma Society program organizer.
2006 J. Douglas Reichart, W. Des Moines, Iowa—chaired local United Way fundraising.
2007 Co-Winner Markham Rollins, Rye Brook, New York—Bridges to Community (poverty victim housing in Nicaragua).
2007 Co-Winner Mark Williamson, Little Rock, Arkansas—Radiation Therapy Institute fundraising.
2008 D. Gaines Lanier, West Point, Georgia—poverty housing reconstruction and Brain Tumor Foundation for Children fundraiser and supporter.
2009 Barbara Galgiani, Modesto, California—hospice creation and support.
2010 Craig Moon, Middletown, Ohio—creation and development of an adult autism community living facility.
2011 Chris Paradiso, Stafford Springs, Connecticut—fundraising for the Connecticut Children's Medical Center.
2012 Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers—helping disabled vets find a career path in insurance.
James Colangelo, a producer at ADP/Statewide Insurance Agencies of Florham Park, New Jersey, holds the 2013 Rough Notes Community Service Award statue. This year's award recognizes the work that Colangelo and Richard Morello, also of Statewide Insurance, have performed in creating and building The Family Reach Foundation. Rough Notes presented a check for $5,000 to the Family Reach Foundation.