Broadening the Reach
Not many Americans understand the cruel reach of Crohn’s disease. Perhaps because it’s a disease that, while afflicting millions of people of all ages, makes folks undeniably squeamish. It involves blood and guts and diarrhea. It inflames your digestive and gastrointestinal tract and eats away at your colon.
But Roger F. Koman, former for-profit marketing maven and current vice president of new enterprises and new business development for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, wants to shatter those perceptions, raise awareness and funds, and afford patients, families and anyone who will listen a comfortable forum to speak freely about the disease.
Two years ago, Koman was given a mandate by CCFA’s board to find new revenue streams for foundation programs and, ultimately, launch initiatives that could be expanded on a national level and get the organization functioning like a successful business.
Motivated by the crucial need to raise the profile of CCFA in the minds of the public and prospective donors, and what he modestly calls his “little crusade to find a cure,” Koman spearheaded a series of diverse special-event fundraisers that run the gamut from local bowl-a-thons to skydiving jumps across America.
Koman is the first to admit that not every CCFA test event has gone off with a smash, likening the experience to hurling a hundred sticky balls at the ceiling and seeing which ones stick.
“Historically, we’ve always gone back to the inner CCFA base, which basically is people who have the disease or families of those who have the disease,” says the Belgium-born Koman, whose 13-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Crohn’s more than six years ago. “With these events we’re bringing in a whole bunch of new people into our circle of friends, who are people that maybe didn’t hear about the disease but who love the concept of a particular event.”