LLS Indiana’s Man & Woman, Boy & Girl of the Year Campaigns Raise Record $1.17M

Writer  /  Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography Provided

Each year the Indianapolis Man & Woman of the Year (MWOY) campaign, presented by Group One Thousand One, raises money to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

“We network to see who might be interested in serving as a candidate,” says Elissa Evernham, Campaign Director, Special Events, noting that through the years candidates have ranged from elementary school principals to realtors to small business owners to stay-at-home moms.

“We’re looking for somebody who is competitive and who has a history of success in business or community,” Evernham says. “Ideally, they should have a philanthropic spirit and be interested in doing something bigger than themselves.”

Though each candidate is asked to commit to raising at least $10,000, most strive to raise $50,000 or more. In 2016, the LLS Indiana chapter had its first million-dollar year (with 14 candidates). In 2017, 10 candidates raised $1.1 million. This year, eight people raised an unprecedented $1.17 million. They raise funds by securing sponsorships, hosting events, creating a campaign team and by good, old-fashioned requesting donations.

The 10-week competition culminates with a Grand Finale Gala at the downtown JW Marriott, complete with a silent and live auction.

The 2018 Indianapolis Man of the Year went to Rob Chinsky, a Carmel resident and franchise owner of 17 Penn Station East Coast Subs, who earned $516,000, breaking the previous all-time national fundraising record set in 2016 by Amanda Bush of Austin, Texas (daughter-in-law of Jeb Bush). His fundraising total earned him the honor of third-place finisher in the 2018 national competition.

“Rob raised over half a million dollars, and we are super proud of him,” Evernham says.

Chinsky went full-force on fundraising and never let up.

“I worked so many hours fundraising, and it was the hardest effort I’ve ever put into anything,” Chinsky says. “But it was well worth it. I have no regrets. Raising $516,000 for research means that I, and my team, made a difference in finding a cure for cancer.”

Jill Petruzzi of Carmel was named the 2018 Indianapolis Woman of the Year by raising $198,000. Petruzzi is an Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager with Merchants Bank of Indiana whose campaign motto was, “Together, we can triumph over tragedy.” She campaigned in memory of her father, Jim Fischer, who lost his battle with Large Diffuse B-Cell Lymphoma in March 2017 and in memory of her son Eric Petruzzi, who was killed in a tragic car accident in November 2016.

“[Participating in WOY] was a wonderful experience and a wonderful way to honor my dad and son,” Petruzzi says. “It put purpose to my pain, and there were so many blessings along the way.”

This year’s Boy and Girl of the Year — Maddox Amador (6) and Jillian Miller (8), both of Indianapolis — are local blood cancer patients (Maddox is still in treatment and Jillian is in remission) who shared their journeys to inspire others. They certainly inspired Chinsky.

“[Their stories] really hit my heart,” says Chinsky, whose company has been an LLS sponsor for several years. He has a cousin who has battled blood cancer for nearly 20 years. Plus, last year his best friend passed away from brain cancer.

“Rob liked learning that LLS’ research was finding promising advances for other cancers, as well,” says Evernham, who describes Chinsky as the kind of guy who will give you the shirt off his back.

“When he asked his contacts to give, they came out in droves,” Evernham says. “Petruzzi got involved because she wanted people to know that you can go through the worst loss of your life and still come out the other side.”

Maddox’s mom, Sarah, told Evernham that being involved in the MWOY campaign gave their family an outlet to start the healing process.

‘“We can never thank you enough for honoring Maddox in so many special ways,” Sarah says.

Jillian’s family was also pleased to be involved in the campaign.

“They were blown away by these candidates who wanted to take the time out of their very busy lives to fundraise for LLS,” Evernham says.

When it comes to the LLS campaign, admiration and inspiration abound.

“I’m in awe of the generosity of others,” Petruzzi says. “Running for WOY was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

For more information, visit lls.org/indiana.

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