Sunday, October 27, 2019

30 Stories 30 Faces 30 Years: Jill Patterson

Editor's Note: This piece originally appeared in the CCA Network newsletter. We bring it to you here, on the blog, to complete the 30 Stories 30 Faces 30 Years online archive. 

In the celebration of our thirtieth year, we wanted to take a special moment to recognize and celebrate one of CCA’s first families and most dedicated supporters, Jill Patterson.

Jill was with CCA from the earliest days, most notably travelling to Washington, DC and meeting with Congress in 1990. There, along with 9 other families, they spoke to Congress about the importance of craniofacial surgery and how it impacts our children’s ability to survive and thrive living with craniofacial syndromes and conditions.

From that moment, Jill’s mission in life was to advance and advocate the cause. Her heart beats to widen the circle of acceptance and create a world where everyone is accepted for who they are, not how they look.

Not only is a Jill a tireless advocate, still advancing the efforts of CCA, she is also a devoted mother to her own CCA Kid, Rob, who is featured in this newsletter as well, and his SuperSib, Erick. She also met her husband Greg, through CCA. Together, they have all been a part of volunteering and fundraising for CCA for decades.

Jana Peace, longtime CCA supporter and former Program Director, says, “Jill taught me a mother’s love for her child. She worked as our Development Director at CCA, but her first, and most important, role was mother to Robbie who had his own craniofacial condition that gave Jill compassion for helping families raise money for hospital stays. She was a fierce momma bear! I don’t think her work is what shaped her character; I think it was her motherly instinct. She was vulnerable, she was scared, but she gave 100% in advocating for her son and I think that’s why she connected with the families. She walked in their shoes.”

Bill Mecklenburg, CCA Board Member, and one of our most loyal fundraisers, was introduced to CCA via Jill. He says, “When we were informed that our daughter was born with a craniofacial condition, we found CCA. Jill answered the phone and it felt like God had placed an angel on the other end of the line to bring us comfort and hope. When we started attending retreats, we quickly realized how many lives a true angel can touch, with every one of us feeling a connection to Jill that is beyond words.

As the development director, Jill taught us to dream and dream big when she brought us to Jorge Posada’s Heroes for Hope gala. That event was the catalyst for catapulting CCA into the major fundraising category that now enables our organization to serve CCA kids and their families in ways we could only dream of less than 10 years ago.”

George Dale, Board Chair, and CCA Dad, echoes just how integral Jill has been to the CCA family. George says, “Jill is my first memory of CCA. When we walked into the registration area at our first family retreat in Washington, D.C. in 2002, she knew us all by name immediately without us saying anything and we instantly felt welcomed. We knew then that we were part of a bigger family. Jill’s dedication to the families of CCA have had an impact on so many people and contributed greatly to the growth of CCA.”

Jill retired from CCA as the Director of Development in 2018, leaving a legacy of family fundraisers that truly support CCA. It was Jill who helped families across the country host these events to raise money for CCA. Through her work, CCA grew over the years and kept building momentum. Jill encouraged the families that they could make an impact through fundraising. Her message resonated with our families, because she too has lived a similar story. Jill understands that receiving a diagnosis of any condition can be tough. Sometimes we may feel very alone and even powerless. However, for many CCA families, hosting or participating in these fundraising events can bring comfort and healing as well as a sense of community. The connections she fostered with other families and volunteers in the wider local and regional area created a team of support, even as they were supporting CCA directly.

Charlene Smith, Executive Director Emeritus,explained the amazing work Jill accomplished for CCA Kids. She says,
“I met Jill (and Robbie) 30 years ago at the hotel registration desk in Washington, D.C. when CCA representatives were testifying before the House Budget Committee. What I didn’t know at the time was that meeting would forge a 30-year relationship between us as friends and colleagues. Having Jill in the CCA office was like having a living memory bank! I cannot count the number of times I yelled to the next office, “Hey Jill, when did we do this?’ or ‘Which retreat was that?’ or ‘How much did we raise at this event?’
If she didn’t have the answer in her head, it was in archived CCA materials that she’d managed to save through the years and be able to put her fingers on in no time!"

Besides initiating the opportunity to join in the Jorge Posada fundraiser in New York, Jill was able to take the Family Fundraiser concept Darin and Dede Dankelson started by holding a golf tournament and cultivate the concept it into one of CCA’s top fundraising initiatives that lives on today.

And, when Rose Seitz came to her with the idea of a basket raffle at the Retreat, Jill turned it into a ‘hometown basket’ fundraiser that remains a highlight of the Retreat.

And, did I mention she was an expert at rhyme and alliteration in naming funders?

In the 30 years that have passed since that first meeting in Washington, D.C., we’ve had many long phone conversations, many laughs and some tears, many ‘time of our lives’ Retreat moments, many long nights selling raffle tickets in Sturgis, many long, productive, fun and, at times, stressful days at the CCA office…many moments that will keep us connected for many years to come.”

Dan Paulson, another other of the “original CCA Families,” says, ’Back in the day,’ I recall Jill with goals to be met and hard charging to attain them. Jill continues to be a great ambassador for CCA, a wonderful person, and one who is probably unaware of how she quietly made an immense impact on many people.” We love that sentiment so much, because so many people have benefitted from Jill’s passion and love for our community.

Working with Jill is a true pleasure. Jill always brought a fun, playfulness to the office. She used her talents and creativity to invent beautiful and fun ways to display raffle items, recognize volunteers, and showcase extraordinary efforts. Jill and Greg’s home was full of donated or rescued-from-the-dumpster items that might serve a purpose for CCA “someday.” She never turned down free furniture or office supplies! She curated t-shirts from all 30 years for CCA and recently helped us organize those shirts for a special project we’ll debut at coming Retreats.

Indeed, it was not just Jill who was committed to CCA, but also Greg, as expressed by CCA Mom, former board member, and ardent supporter, Paula Guzzo, who says, “We met Jill and her sons at our first CCA retreat 25 years ago. She has been a constant in our family's life as a CCA parent, CCA staffer, and friend. Whether she was working as a paid staffer or volunteering her time unpaid, Jill's commitment to CCA is stellar. CCA got a bonus with Jill's employment as her husband Greg volunteered untold time and donated generously to CCA by taking pictures at Retreats, doing whatever was needed at golf tournament fundraisers, attending CCA-related events throughout the nation, and driving CCA merchandise/materials cross country to Retreats and conferences. Jill, thank you and your family for more than I can write in these few sentences.”

Friend and fellow advocate, Diana Sweeney, parent liaison in the Division of Plastic Surgery at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says, “Jill and I have spent many hours supporting all children with facial differences, sharing stories and lives. We have ‘grown up together’ in the craniofacial world, and worked hard to change the way the world perceives kids with facial differences.

My friend, Jill, is a front-line warrior in the fight for awareness!”

Jill worked long hours and never thought about “overtime” or “comp time,” because truly her life was CCA-centered. Her dedication to this organization is truly unparalleled and will be her lasting legacy.

Now that she has retired, she still contributes so much via volunteering on projects at the office and staying active in the CCA Family. Her sense of humor and style is her signature, and she always comes dressed to impress at CCA events.

Transitioning into a new stage of life is not always easy, but Jill has filled her time with travel and family, which most of us aspire to do when we retire! Through it all, Jill has been an unwavering loyal friend to us all and put aside the ebbs and flows of fundraising and community organizing to be a pillar for the craniofacial community.

Thank you, Jill, Greg, Robbie, and Erick!

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