Promoted: Shamrockin’ for a Cure Support Spotlights

written by CARL DANBURY, JR. | photos courtesy of LIZ ERIKSON; SHAMROCKIN’ FOR A CURE; CATMAX PHOTOGRAPHY

THE STRONGEST ORGANIZATIONS aren’t fueled just by software, hardware, systems and methodology. In fact, the best infrastructure for any great team begins with the people it attracts. For ShamRockin’ for a Cure — the army of volunteers, sponsors, advocates and attendees that orchestrate and contribute to the Northside’s best fundraising party every year — is the core of the organization that will have helped the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation raise more than $2 million in nine years.

The St. Patrick’s Day-themed celebration, which will be held Saturday, March 25 at Alpharetta’s Verizon Amphitheatre, is organized by volunteers, who for the most part, have no personal family connection to Cystic Fibrosis (CF), the genetic lung disorder found in about 30,000 people in the U.S that also affects the pancreas and other organs.

Neither event co-chair Tom Murphy, nor pre
senting sponsor Brian Martin of Righteous Guitars, nor Clover sponsor and last year’s emcee Jimmy Pomerance, have a connection to CF, other than having met Jon and Pam Baker, parents of Gavin and Jake, both of whom were diagnosed with CF as young children.

In fact, of the 18 chairpersons who are leading the event this year, 15 have no family member with the disease. “Part of the appeal of ShamRockin’ is meeting this amazing army of people,” said Pomerance, owner and president of Impact Speakers in Alpharetta. “The people that you see at the momentum meetings, none of us have that have-to-be-there feeling [of a parent, grandparent, uncle or aunt], but, there is something that draws us all together.” With that notion in mind, we’ve compiled a behind-the-scenes look at a few personalities who make it all possible.

Support Spotlight: Brian Martin

RIGHTEOUS GUITARS; BRIAN S. MARTIN FOUNDATION 
Early last year, Brian Martin opened Righteous Guitars on Hembree Road in Roswell. This labor of love was a long time coming.

The idea was engrained in him when he once had supplemented his income for a few years by buying and selling guitars on eBay while his company Nanoventions was in infancy. Nanoventions designed (in Roswell) and manufactured (in Alpharetta) optical and non-optical technology used toprevent the counterfeiting of everything from drivers licensesto pharmaceuticals to currency. Most notably, the company designed the MOTION technology for currency, which is the blue fiber found in the $100 bill that has been adopted in approximately 30 countries.  

LEFT TO RIGHT: Ben Calhoun and Brian Martin

After selling that portion of his business a few years ago, Martin created a 501(c)3 foundation in his name to give back. The philanthropist, who had also purchased more guitars than he had sold, contemplated opening a retail storefront for his collection, which had grown to roughly 250 electric and acoustic guitars (no basses). The natural evolution to retail became a reality in February 2016. But it’s no ordinary retail music store — it’s righteous! 

When Martin and his team realized that “Martin’s Fine
Guitars” wouldn’t get much love from the Google search engine considering C.F. Martin & Co. acoustic guitars has been in existence since 1833 – some of which the newer company planned to have in their inventory – Sales Manager Ben Calhoun’s wife posed the name Righteous instead. 

They checked on the trademark and the website URL, and nothing related to the music industry popped up. It seems faith or fate had lent a hand. After a few attempts at along, Brian implored one of the creative designers summoned to work on the idea to consider something like Moses bringing a tablet down from Mount Sinai with the name Righteous Guitars emblazoned on it. A version of the notion is now their official logo.

The warehouse they chose for a storefront had to be reconfigured, redesigned and then restructured. Calhoun’s
family in Taylorsville is in the lumber business, and the Georgia pines that were sawed and milled now line the warehouse walls that display the precious instruments. Calhoun, along with the Righteous Guitar’s Online Sales Consultant Scott Martin (Brian’s son) cut and screwed every board into place. 

Preferring not to drink from a fire hose upon opening the new venture, Martin and his team, which includes Senior Sales Associate Jeff Gans, opened the store with little fanfare. There was no ribbon cutting, no big advertising campaign and no grand opening party. “There is a universal theory that if your success is built up over time with a strong foundation, then it likely will not go away quickly,” Martin offered. “If it appears tonight, it can go away just as quickly tomorrow.” 

During its first year in business, Righteous experienced exciting but manageable growth, according to Martin. “We surpassed our first projection, our revised projection and our third projection,” he said with a smile. He estimated they sold approximately 400 guitars the first year. Guitars range in cost from $1,500 to $35,000 a piece.

“We changed the world in the anti-counterfeiting business, and I would like to do the same in the guitar business. I don’t want to be all things to everyone –– just guitars, no basses –– just electric and acoustic guitars. When I envisioned this business, I came at it from a customer’s perspective rather than that of a salesperson. Ben and Jeff had the sales side covered, but I represented the customer,” he said.

“Ben was my contact in several guitar deals in the past. I liked the way he dealt with customers and with me. The great thing about this business is the passionate customer base. They smile when they come in and they smile when they leave. They’re not here to get a free entrée. We have customers that will sit here for hours just talking about guitars. There’s a camaraderie that exists, like an old-style barber shop,” Martin added.

THE NAME “RIGHTEOUS” HOLDS another meaning for Bethany Flowers, director of the Martins’ charitable arm, the Brian S. Martin Foundation. “The name is the epitome of what Brian has preached to us,” she said. “Righteous is the way we should conduct ourselves and the way we should do business, always.” 

When it comes to the causes that Martin and Flowers champion, those involved must touch their hearts first. Martin grew up only with his mother, so children’s charities are important to him. Veterans, First Responders and victims of human trafficking also hold a special place. The connection to ShamRockin’ for a Cure, however, was specifically related to ShamRockin’ and CFF’s culture on investing in research. Martin prefers to give a hand up rather than a hand out. In addition to the $20,000 presenting sponsorship for the event, Righteous Guitars also will donate a valuable guitar for one of the live auction lots as well as a few silent auction items as well.

 “The money donated to CFF is not somewhere floating in a cloud so that you don’t know what is being done with it. You know where your money is going. You know it’s making a difference. You see the positive effect that your donation is having on people, the research that is being done, that the medicine is passing FDA oversight and is actually getting to the children to help them,” Martin said. 
 
Flowers not only screens all potential opportunities, she also participates in the efforts. 
 
“The highlight of my week is Rotary International. I love the stories and am always energized by the causes. It is just so positive,” Flowers said. “I am excited to get involved person-ally, and to serve on committees with the causes that Brian is involved with financially.”
 

LEFT TO RIGHT: Bethany Flowers, Brian Martin, Jeff Gans, Scott Martin and Ben Calhoun

THOSE CAUSES ARE HANDPICKED, and chosen with careful consideration. It’s the same when the Righteous staff chooses a guitar.

 
“We look at every guitar before we buy it. We’re not going to buy three of the same kind. Everything in here has to be special, unique in some way,” Martin said.
 
The customer experience at Righteous Guitars also is second-to-none. Upon entering the store, you’ll notice the intense colors, the richness of the wood and the fragrances. “We’re the store they always wanted,” Martin said. “It can be a bit overwhelming.” But once accustomed to guitar Nirvana, prospective buyers can audition the instrument in private studios. “The right guitar will speak to you.” 
 
The customer experience extends to those who wouldn’t know a Paul Reed Smith Custom 24 from a Lowden F35 Myrtle/Sitka. In fact, Flowers designed a room for those unfortunate individuals who may be accompanying the guitar buyer/purist with the amenities that make several hours of waiting more comfortable.
 
 “The two most miserable people in the world are those getting a root canal, and the significant other to someone at a guitar store,” Martin said with a soft laugh.
Your sales associate will carry your new purchase to your vehicle, because it’s not just the transaction, it’s the experience.
 
“No business goes broke by treating their customers right.” | righteousguitars.com
 

Support Spotlight: Tom Murphy

MURPHY CUSTOM BUILDERS; UPS

SOME OF US ARE GREEN WITH ENVY about Tom Murphy’s heart of gold. A parent of five, grandparent of three, loving husband to fellow ShamRockin’ volunteer Nancy, and spiritual leprechaun of all ShamRockers, he’s a man that truly leads by example.

At the first ShamRockin’ celebration, the president of Murphy Custom Builders so wanted the event to succeed that the bought up all of the numerous, remaining auction items. The success of the organization depends upon that kind of personal commitment.
 
“It’s not based upon position in life or social status, or what or who you know corporately,” Murphy said. “It’s this wide diversity of people who share this big heart for kids and to help cure something that is tangible, reachable.” 
 
Previously, Nancy worked with the American Heart Association and Tom worked with United Way for years and years,but they never saw the end in sight for the efforts, Murphy said. 
 
“We believe in the researchers, including local scientists like [Nael] McCarty working hard every day to find a cure. Now that researchers have gotten the base cocktail down, they’ll just keep going with derivatives of it until they get it right!,” he said with a beaming smile. 
 
Knowing that a cure is in sight, and might very well be uncovered during our lifetime, is part of the allure of joining ShamRockin’ in the fight against CF. Murphy likened it to President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 declaration of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.
 

LEFT TO RIGHT: ShamRockers Jon Baker, Lara Dolan, Brian O’Reilly, Tom Murphy and Barb Horvath

LIKE THE PROMISE OF A CURE, the snowball effect of volunteers assembling more teams of other volunteers is inspiring.
 
“People who haven’t been exposed to it wouldn’t believe it,” Murphy said. “These aren’t professionals; they are volunteers. They have a unique set of skills. Some people aren’t comfortable approaching people and asking for sponsorship dollars. But, they can set up the venue, ask for silent auction items or get restaurants involved in the event.” 
 
As a father and grandfather, Murphy could choose to lessen his time as a volunteer and spend more time with his children and grandchildren, but he says that the example of volunteerism will pay dividends to future generations.
 
 “Part of our goal, part of our purpose for being here isn’t just to enjoy what we have become or what we have, part of the plan is that we give back and teach our next generations to step in and do the same things we have,” Murphy offered. “All of our kids are involved in some cause. They’re not sitting around accumulating more crap or being self-indulgent. They all have learned and adapted to giving back to others, just like all of the ShamRockin’ volunteers. We want our children and our grandchildren to be focused upon giving to and serving others. If they don’t, then who will in the future? … It’s part oft he big man’s plan: you do it, and you teach others to do it.” 
 
One of Murphy’s favorite moments during his nine years of affiliation to the ShamRockin’ cause was the day in August 2015 when Gavin and Jake Baker took their first dose of Orkambi, the drug that targets the underlying cause of the disease in people with two copies of the most common CF gene mutation.
 
“It’s not that we could say, ‘If it wasn’t for us, that day would never have happened,’ but we can say that we were part of the struggle. We had watched those kids suffer when they were having problems, and every day they had pills and[underwent] those tests. It was the overwhelming feeling of, ‘Oh my God, this really does give them hope for a future!’” Murphy said. “It was one of those game-changing moments for us, that there is hope for Jake and Gavin, and some of the 30,000 others too. It was a great gift.”
 
Murphy related a story about a 25-year-old young woman who had just found out that Orkambi could help her and possibly extend her life. “She looked up and said, ‘Crap, now I have to get a 401(k)plan!’” Murphy relayed with a laugh. “What a great thing knowing you have to save money because you’re going to live. You can’t put a price on that.”
AND JUST IMAGINE GIVING a mother like Pam Baker hope? Early on, most of the focus was centered upon Pam and Jon, Gavin and Jake, and the entire Baker family. Now, there are many others locally who benefit from the tireless support of the ShamRockin’ team.
 
“They were our point of reference,” Murphy said. “Now, there are are many more families who are involved, with even more on the fringe who will jump in too. The photos of the kids and how they are a affected really tug on our heartstrings, but the moms are the ones that endure the day to day. You know, dads aren’t the normal, primary caregivers in a family. I traveled most of my life. I missed a lot of birthdays and anniversaries and all those events. I have my regrets. But, it’s the moms who generally do the day-to-day-to-day.”
 
Murphy continued, “If we can infuse that ‘mama bear’ instinct into our volunteerism so that people can see the face of the mom, the central caregiver for those children, and let them see how the family unit can be affected by this terrible disease, it will be extremely helpful. I think it is important for the moms to recognize that there are people who are willing to support them, as well as knowing that we, as volunteers, understand  what they are going through on a daily basis.” 
 
What began as purely a fundraising effort has now developed into so much more. The army of fundraisers has become a family, according to Murphy. “These people are like my own siblings. I was in the service, and I know how close you get to the guys. You’re in the same situation as them, and you become like brothers. That’s how it is with ShamRockin’ … It’s inexplicable. It’s a very special relationship you have with others on the team,” Murphy said.philanthropy
 

Support Spotlight: Jimmy Pomerance

OWNER AND PRESIDENT, IMPACT SPEAKERS 
 
PART OF PROFESSIONAL SPEAKER Jimmy Pomerance’s two-day seminar on communication skills and sales training focuses upon specificity. In this day and age, it seems we often face a widening barrier between vague and specific. 
 
“I was flying to Dulles, [Va.] and before getting to the hotel, I was scheduled for a few meetings. I had luggage and a few other things and contemplated dropping them off before the meetings if I had time,” Pomerance shared. “I called the hotel and asked how far the hotel was from Dulles. I swear the answer I got was, ‘Not too far.’” 

“Oh, not too far. What does that mean, not too far? Or, the call to room service to check on the pending arrival of your breakfast. ‘It will be there shortly!’ Oh really, is your definition of shortly five minutes, or 45 minutes? We no longer live in a specific world. That is the problem,” Pomerance added. 

 
Salespeople often confront a wall of barriers these days. Some customers would rather e-mail or even text; personal interaction and even tele-phone conversations can be few and far between. With the typed or written word, intention or seriousness often can be misconstrued.
 “Think of how many times you’re talking with a business associate and they’ll say, ‘I was just talking with someone who said’…I’ll interrupt and ask, did they really say it, or did they text it or email it? You can’t hear an intention level in a text like you can in a voice,” Pomerance said.
 
There is an art to leaving a voicemail too. “People don’t know why others won’t return their voicemails. How many times have you listened to a voicemail, and after you’ve heard it, you still have no idea what that person wants? The specificity is the key. If I call and leave someone a voicemail, I am going to leave them a brief idea of what I want them to do, what I want to talk about, or provide a short agenda of things that need to be discussed,” he advised.
 
Such specificity removes all doubt, even when simply asking a teenager to clean his/her room. “When do you want the room cleaned? Do you want it done today, tomorrow or within the next hour? How do you want it cleaned? Should the bed be made? Should clothes be hung up? Should dirty clothes be placed in the hamper?
And, give them a deadline to remove all doubt and the consequences if it’s not done to your standards. That removes all doubt, just like a good voicemail!” Pomerance said.
 
ANY DOUBT SOMEONE MIGHT HAVE about volunteering, donating or buying a ticket for ShamRockin’ for a Cure will be alleviated quickly, according to Pomerance.
 
In the name of specificity, we’ll cut to the chase: “Once you get involved, and I mean once you walk in the door to one of those momentum meetings, if you have a heart, you’re hooked. Part of the appeal is meeting this amazing army of people, learning more about Cystic Fibrosis, how it affects children, and how the life expectancy for those with CF has increased, even within the past five years since I became involved,” Pomerance said.
 
“I am a cancer survivor myself. I raise money for cancer and I have participated in all sorts of events related to it. But this thing, CF, we’re going to cure it. Medications that have already made leaps and bounds in the fight against CF, but very few diseases that you are going advocate against, will have a cure in our lifetime. But, just like we coined a few years ago, ‘It’s Gonna Happen.’ We’re going to cure it, and we’re going to be around to give each other high fives when we do cure it. Then, we’re all going to look at one another and say, ‘now what do we do?’” 
 
What would they do? “Knowing this group, we’ll work on curing worldwide hunger or peace on earth,” he said. “It is just an amazing group of people.” Pomerance was introduced to the group by former event co-chair Lara Dolan, who is a sponsorship chair for the 2017 event.
 
“Like all of us, I knew somebody who knew somebody. In my case, Lara, who is a neighbor and a friend and played on the same tennis team as me, introduced me to Jon Baker. He told me about his boys, about ShamRockin’ and I just got hooked. I think this will be my fifth ShamRockin’. Last year, I was the event emcee,” Pomerance said.
 
EXPANDING THE GROWING CIRCLE of ShamRockin’ volunteers is vital for the future.
 
“I marvel at other people’s accomplishments relatedto this event. You see someone like Beth Culloty (hospitality co-chair) who brings 20 silent auction items to one meeting,” Pomerance said. “You think to yourself, ‘Hey, I can do that.’ After the last meeting we attended, I told my wife Tobi we had to buy another table to ShamRockin’ this year. You are inspired to do something. When we expand the circle, we are better as an organization. Everybody brings a different skill set.”  

What will you bring? Think specific. impactspeakers.com


For ShamRockin’ Tickets: shamrockinforacure.eventscff.org
To Become a ShamRockin’ Sponsor: shamrockinforacure.com/become-a-sponsor
To Volunteer: shamrockinforacure.com/join-the-army
For more information about CF and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, visit cff.org

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

Cars & ‘Q event chair Emily Bridges and CF ambassador Leann Ott

AFTER YOU SHED YOUR SHAMROCKS IN MARCHanother party with a purpose pulls up to the curb on April 29 with the eighth annual Cars & ‘Q for the Cause, an award-winning car show hosted by Choate Construction. Well known for its marriage of stellar cars, super BBQ and sweet music, this popular spring event is just one of many fundraisers created by Choate Construction’s employees to support the Georgia Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF). 

Choate Chairman/CEO Millard Choate began supporting the CF cause more than 27 years ago when his daughter Emily Bridge’s best friend, Leann Rittenbaum,was diagnosed with CF as a toddler. Emily, now marketing director for Choate, the owner of a classic 1969 Camaro and chair for the event, shares her dad’s enthusiasm for both a CF cure and classic cars. 

This year’s Cars & ‘Q for the Cause will feature a continuous pour of craft brews including Lagunitas, The Unknown Brewing Company and Second Self Beer Company, mouthwatering bites by Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, live music, a silent auction and more than 100 classic, muscle, exotic cars and bikes. New this year will be a Road Rally, with a finish line at the show.

Some of the 2017 prized rides include multiple award-winning cars, such as a 1932 Duesenberg, a 1967 Ferrari 330 P4, a 1974 Lamborghini Urraco S, a1933 FordVictoria Street Rod and a 1966 Shelby Mustang GT350H,
among others.
 
“Each year, we pack our parking lot with more than100 drool-inducing rides, local brews, BBQ and entertainment, and party with the driving purpose of funding a CF cure,” Bridge said. “We’re hopeful the CF cause speaks volumes to our attendees.”

Last year, Cars & ‘Q raised $255,000 for the CFF, 
which provides much-needed funding for research and drug development to help cure CF. This year’s car show is scheduled for April 29 from 4 to 7 p.m. Tickets purchased in advance are $20 for the car show and dinner, or $40 for the car show, dinner and access to the bar (for 21 years of age and older). Parking is free. carsnq.passioncff.org