Anne Marie Suchanek Hopes to Inspire More Workplace Giving

When Anne Marie Suchanek heard her department at Microsoft was looking for causes to support during a special Giving Month initiative, she called her brother, Joey, who has FOP, and asked if she could share his story. He agreed, and she’s been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. Her team raised approximately $20,000 in donations and matching gifts to benefit the IFOPA and FOP community.
 
“Microsoft’s general culture is incredibly philanthropic,” Suchanek shared. “We are often encouraged to volunteer, and Microsoft will donate money on our behalf. The company will also donate directly to charity with Microsoft matches for eligible causes.”
 
“We also have a very generous cap on what Microsoft is willing to match.”
 
Suchanek is a monthly donor to the IFOPA through Microsoft’s employee giving options, but she’s always looking for more ways to support Joey and everyone else living with FOP. As plans for Giving Month were made, a call went out for personal stories and Suchanek knew she wanted to raise awareness for FOP.
 
No one she worked with was familiar with FOP, so Suchanek gave a presentation to her entire department describing what it is and its impact on the body.
 
“I referred to the disease as a second skeleton that never stops growing, chronically limiting mobility. I also showed pictures of my brother and I growing up in which his limited mobility became more and more apparent throughout the years,” said Suchanek.
 
Suchanek brought others into what it’s like to experience the progression of the disease and how little things in life that most people take for granted, like going for a walk or tying his shoes, are no longer realistic for Joey.
 
Her vulnerability in telling her brother’s story stirred her coworkers. Many reached out to her privately to express their emotions and thank her for her openness…and they showed their support through financial contributions.
 
“I was moved to tears at the incredible generosity of the community. Our executive leadership also was very generous in their own donations, which went twice as far with the Microsoft match,” Suchanek recalled.
 
“I still can’t believe we were able to raise so much in such a short amount of time! My family was so touched—we were all shocked at just how much was donated.”
 
By sharing her success, Suchanek hopes to inspire more people to look at fundraising options with their employers. She encourages everyone to reach out to managers or human resources staff to ask about company matches or other ways to participate in a giving program, or even start one if nothing is currently available.
 
“Ask if there are volunteer days your company can participate in to raise awareness or money for a designated cause. Many companies are working to invest in their local communities, so perhaps you can start an initiative at your company to get more involved in helping others,” said Suchanek.
 
“It all starts somewhere and ultimately every dollar can grow into more the more your company is involved.”
 
For Suchanek, it’s meaningful to have an opportunity to raise awareness and funds. She admits siblings of people with FOP may have “survivor’s guilt” and families can feel powerless. She sees rallying support as one way to make a tangible difference and this experience motivates her to do more.
 
“It can be hard to find a direct way to help the pain or day-to-day struggles of dealing with FOP,” Suchanek said.
 
“By working with my employer to raise awareness, wearing my IFOPA bracelet every day and explaining my tattoo that says ‘Good luck today!’ in my brother’s handwriting, I keep his story alive for everyone I meet. I hope I can continue to advocate for my brother and help others in the FOP community.”
 
For more information and ideas on workplace giving, contact Community Fundraising Manager Cathryn Roys at [email protected].

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