Getting Involved: Top Execs 'Do Time' for MDA

Lock-Ups generate good fun while raising awareness, funds for research and services

Sandi and Ken Greenblatt of Boca Raton, Fla., raised a record amount during their first stint as jailbirds.
Article Highlights:
  • Lock-Ups are fun fundraising and awareness-building events in which people are asked to raise “bail” (e.g., donations to MDA) in order to escape from jail.”
  • Lock-Ups occur around the nation throughout the year, making them MDA’s single-largest fundraising program. Telethon Executive Lock-Ups are events for business executives held each year just prior to the MDA Labor Day Telethon.
  • In this article, several prominent business people describe why they participate in Executive Lock-Ups, how they raise record-setting donations, and what Lock-Ups and MDA mean to them.
by Miriam Davidson on October 1, 2011 - 3:30pm

QUEST Vol. 18, No. 4

Shocking as it seems, some of the most upstanding business people in your community recently may have spent time in jail.

And they may be headed back there too.

They’re not in a real jail, of course, but in a fun jail from which they can’t escape until their “bail” (donations to MDA) is raised.

Throughout the year, MDA Lock-Up events are held around the country, making them the Association’s single-largest fundraising program. An estimated 120,000 people will be “in jail” for MDA in 2011, and many more than that will be contributing “bail” to help them get out.

The Telethon Executive Lock-Ups, which take place prior to the Telethon each year, are Lock-Ups for prominent business people. The events offer local community leaders a chance to meet and network with colleagues while at the same time doing their part to fight muscle disease.

Quest recently spoke to some of these high-profile “jailbirds” to find out why they participate, how they raise record-setting donations and what Lock-Ups mean to them.

Ken and Sandi GreenblattBoca Raton, Fla.

As co-directors of G Four Productions, a theatrical management company, Ken and Sandi Greenblatt frequently are involved in charity events. But they had never raised money for MDA until earlier this year, when they were asked to participate in an Executive Lock-Up.

“Once we were asked, we thought it was a clever idea and wanted to help,” Sandi says. Sandi has a family connection to muscular dystrophy — her brother was thought to have had a form of the disease, though he never received a formal diagnosis — but prior to this year she mostly raised money for her passion, animal welfare.

Because of the couple’s long history of charitable involvement, “everybody responded,” Sandi says, when Ken put out the word that they needed bail to get out of the MDA jail. The couple raised about $15,000 — the highest total of their event and an amazing amount for first-time participants.

“It was fun, and everybody was really nice to us,” Ken says, adding that the couple will be happy to do it again next year.

Thomas KiefnerCape Girardeau, Mo.

Lock-Ups and MDA hold a special place in the heart of Thomas Kiefner, a general contractor who has raised more than $60,000 for the Association over the past eight years.

Kiefner’s daughter was slow to develop physical and motor skills and for a while was thought to have a form of muscular dystrophy. “I was so scared and torn up,” Kiefner says of that time. “It gave me a taste of what parents and families go through.”

Although Kiefner’s daughter turned out not to have muscular dystrophy and is now an active teenager, Kiefner never forgot how devastated he was when he thought that she did.

“When I was asked to help [with Lock-Ups], it tugged on something in my heart,” he says. “I kind of felt God was giving me the opportunity to give back.

“I do it mainly for the children, but also for the parents.”

Kiefner goes about raising his bail money with professional precision. He has a list of some 400 business and personal contacts that he keeps constantly updated. With the help of his office assistant, he sends out letters to every one of them.

“I include a self-addressed, stamped envelope to make it easy for them,” Kiefner says. “And everybody that gives, I take the time to write out a thank-you note and send it to them personally.”

Keifner has a slew of awards from MDA for his fundraising acumen and ongoing commitment to Lock-Ups, but more important to him is the satisfaction of knowing that his efforts are making a real difference in the lives of children and families facing neuromuscular disease.

Michael BeaumierSarasota, Fla.

In 2006, when Michael Beaumier’s sister was 52 years old, she passed away from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). ALS is one of the more than 40 neuromuscular diseases for which MDA is seeking treatments and cures, so when Beaumier, project manager for a building contractor, later was invited to participate in an Executive Lock-Up, he did so with his sister in mind.

“This was an opportunity for me to put myself behind something close to my heart,” Beaumier said, noting that his sister received her diagnosis through an MDA clinic in Los Angeles and that MDA also has an ALS clinic near his home in Sarasota. “When I go out recruiting donors, I can have a personal, close-to-home discussion.”

Beaumier uses email to recruit donors, setting up his own Web page and working off his contact list.

“I send out emails to about 1,500 contacts,” he says. “A couple of weeks later, I send out another email to those who haven’t donated.”

Beaumier has been participating in Executive Lock-Ups for three years and raises between $4,000 and $7,000 each year, with an average donation of about $100.

His contact list contains a mixture of friends, business acquaintances and family members. People from all over the country donate every year, including many who knew his sister.

Beaumier likes to have his bail completely raised by the time he gets hauled off to jail, so he can spend the time socializing and networking, rather than having to be on the phone.

“Once I go to the Lock-Up, I’m done, so I can just show up, get my picture taken, eat lunch, and just joke around with it. I’m not under the pressure of having to raise bail.”

He hopes that — through fundraising by himself and others — MDA one day will be able to move ALS research to the point where the disease no longer claims lives.

So, the next time you get a call from a prominent business person asking you to help bail him or her out of jail, don’t be shocked. It’s for a good cause.

Get involved! Contact your local MDA office or call (800) 572-1717 to learn more about participating in an MDA Lock-Up in your community.

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