It’s been a little over a week since Vicky Garcia, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Cruise Planners - American Express Travel, was named Ft. Lauderdale Leukemia & Lymphoma Society 2012 Woman of the Year.
After an intense 10 week-long campaign that raised an unprecedented $115,000, we caught up with Vicky to gain some insights on her success.
Q: How were you able to raise the $115,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?
It took a “village”. Honestly, I had the help and support of so many to accomplish this. At the office we had a volunteer group we called the “CP Cares Team”. We met weekly and brainstormed on ways to raise dollars, and involved everyone in the office. I am fortunate to be a part of such an amazing network professionally and personally. We reached out to our franchise owners throughout the U.S., travel industry partners and vendors, friends old and new online and offline. We did everything.
Each of these events raised between $100 - $2000 on a Silent Auction, small numbers. But it started a fire within all of us and we knew that this was just the beginning to a successful campaign no matter what. Our main event was a cocktail evening with friends and family where we sold tickets for $35 each, and hosted a silent auction and raffle. It was an amazingly FUN event filled with supporters from all walks of life. It pushed the momentum into high gear as we were ALL running with LLS by now. It definitely became a PASSION!
Q: What was your inspiration to raising dollars for this high-spirited campaign?
Making a difference! Honestly, when I was first “nominated” by my friend, Carolyn Cauceglia, vice president of Sales at AMADEUS, I just thought it was some sort of “essay” or “popularity” (social media) contest. THEN, I got the call from LLS that “every dollar raised is a vote”. My thoughts were, “Oh geez, really? I can’t do that! I’m NOT that ‘connected’!”. So, then I shared it with the team, and we jumped all over it and said, let’s do the best we can and have fun with it!
As I learned more about LLS and all that they do to not only find a cure for blood cancer but also help support patients and families who are going through it…It hit home! Cancer touches us all. I lost my Dad most recently to cancer and that journey really taught me to “pay it forward”. In addition, my dear friend Sarah Charleson’s daughter Meredith is an ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) survivor. At just the age of twelve, she has taught all of us the importance of appreciating life and each other. She was one of many of our driving forces throughout the 10 weeks. It became clear that I was not only raising funds for LLS, I was rallying a team to make a difference in the life of those battling this terrible disease.
Q: Tell us what was going through your mind when it was announced that you were the 2012 LLS Woman of the Year?
It was overwhelming as I’d invited 60 guests to the event, and the energy (and noise!;) when my name was announced was insane! I was just so proud of what we accomplished and being able to share that with my family and friends there was just incredible. My mom, sister, childhood best friend, CP family, preferred suppliers and even NEW friends…plus industry icon and MY MENTOR, Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales for Royal Caribbean International, was my special guest that night. In addition, Sarah Charleson and Janelle Ortiz flew in just for the event. Janelle is the daughter of Susan Robinson, a Cruise Planners travel advisor who recently passed away after battling cancer herself.
(Hey Susan…from above, just know, we are looking after your sweet Janelle! She rocks and is part of the CP Family herself now!)
Pictured (L-R): Vicki Freed, Vicky Garcia, Carol Alexander and Carolyn Cauceglia.
Q: How has this experience changed your life?
I really don’t think I will ever be the same. I look at everything now in terms of how can we help the cause. Whether it be just fundraising ideas, or networking opportunities with “movers & shakers” and/or philanthropists that I can help motivate to help the cause. I’ve personally been approached by several families directly affected and ASSISTED by LLS and am so proud to have been able to help. I am now a firm believer that we can ALL make a difference at any level. It’s made me a better person, no doubt.
Q: What’s next for you now that you’ve earned this amazing title?
I am committed to LLS…I fell in love with the people there. I’ve met friends for life, as well as in some of the other candidates. We have a special bond that is pretty intense. The campaign was only 10-weeks (long & BUSY, no doubt). It didn't allow me to spend a lot of time, if any, with some of the candidates, however we feel as if we’ve known each other a lifetime. I recently traveled with the LLS Team, including the 2011 Woman of the Year to Puerto Rico to attend the Man of Woman of the Year Event for their chapter. It was truly an honor to be invited and to represent Ft. Lauderdale as the 2012 Woman of the Year as well as meet my newly extended LLS family.
I will be on the committee for MYOW-Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of this year, and help them mentor next year’s candidates. Eventually I'll have to pass on my crown but let’s not rush that—I’m enjoying it for now!
Q: Any advice for 2013 candidates?
Did I mention, HAVE FUN!