NicsaTalk Podcast

Listen to this special episode of the NicsaTalk Podcast where host Justine Phoenix dives deep into the heart of philanthropy and community engagement in the financial services industry and beyond. In this episode, Justine sits down with Maggie Dombroski, Director of Development at Expect Miracles Foundation, to learn the story behind one of the foundation’s most impactful initiatives, “The Distance Challenge.”

EMF’s Distance Challenge beckons individuals from all walks of life to lace up their shoes, hop on their bikes, and join the movement to support those affected by cancer. With a rallying cry of “How far will you go to leave cancer behind?” this event, now in its fifth year, embodies the resilient spirit and unwavering determination of both participants and organizers alike. Join us in this special podcast episode where we explore the motivations, inspirations, and aspirations behind EMF’s ambitious goal to raise $1 million, and discover how every step, pedal, or stride brings hope, healing, and a tangible difference to those lives touched by cancer.

Justine Phoenix

Justine Phoenix

Vice President, Nicsa

Host of the NicsaTalk Podcast Justine Phoenix is V.P. of Product and Distribution and Head of Diversity Project North America for Nicsa. Her interview was a deep dive on EMF’s 5th Annual Distance Challenge fundraiser for the cancer community.

Maggie Dombroski

Maggie Dombroski

Director of Development

Maggie Dombroski is the Director of Development at Expect Miracles Foundation and runs the annual Distance Challenge event, a global virtual event attracting more than 1500 participants and 100 companies from the finanical services industry.

NicsaTalks Podcast Transcript

Justine Phoenix

Hello and welcome. I’m Justine Phoenix with Nicsa, and today I’m excited to welcome Maggie Dombroski, Director of Development at Expect Miracles Foundation. Welcome, Maggie.

Maggie Dombroski

Thank you for having me.

Justine Phoenix

Today we’re going to have a conversation about Expect Miracles Foundation and an event that we want to discuss. But I think that some of our listeners may know a little bit or may know a lot about the EMF. For those of us who don’t, can you just provide an overview?

Maggie Dombroski

Absolutely. Thank you so much. Expect Miracles Foundation is a super unique nonprofit. We rally the financial services industry and beyond to invest in life saving cancer research while advancing the financial and emotional health of people impacted by cancer. We bring hope to cancer patients and their families through our portfolio of three funds. And, we have awarded over 21 million in grants in support of cancer research and financial assistance to those impacted by cancer since 1995.

We hold networking events, galas, golf tournaments, and other events. Financial executives participate in them, network and do business development and turn these business opportunities into life-saving opportunities through our mission to provide hope to the cancer community.

Justine Phoenix

So $21 million. That’s a lot of grants to support cancer research. Congratulations. That’s amazing.

Maggie Dombroski

Yes, we’re very proud.

Justine Phoenix

All right. So, we got something coming up in May. What is the Distance Challenge event that’s coming up soon?

Maggie Dombroski

Our Distance Challenge is our largest event. It’s a global peer to peer fundraiser that offers an exciting competition where individuals can run, walk, bike or do something that gets them moving in support of the cancer community. We like to say, how far will you go to leave cancer behind? It’s a week-long event from May 14th to the 21st, where, as I mentioned, participants get moving, they get active along with their company, along with their organization, and they go the distance in support of the cancer community. Throughout this week, 100% of participant raised dollars go towards the cause thanks to our generous supporters. So, it’s a great a great mission, a great fundraising vehicle with funds going directly to our cause.

Justine Phoenix

What is the goal that you’ve set for the Distance Challenge?

Maggie Dombroski

Our goal is to raise $1 million this year. We’ve gotten close over the past few years. This event was launched in 2020. Last year, we had over 1400 participants, more than 100 teams in 19 countries involved. And we’re on track right now to break all of those records. So, we’re really looking forward to a great event this year.

Justine Phoenix

Awesome. That’s fantastic. And everybody has to get moving. Well, let’s talk a little bit more about why individuals should support this cause?

Maggie Dombroski

You know what I always like to say? I like to think about all that the financial services industry has accomplished. And you know what we think; why not cure cancer? It’s just such a phenomenal group of people and individuals that are so inspirational. And when they come together, the power of the financial services industry is nearly unmatched.

Cancer has impacted almost everyone you know in some way. More than 1.2 million Americans develop cancer each year. And a new cancer is diagnosed every 30 seconds in the U.S. At EMF we focus on funding life-saving cancer research and the research labs addressing the four leading challenges in cancer, which are early detection, real time prognosis, drug resistant cancers and metastatic cancers.

And then we’re also funding EMF’s SAMFund, which is a fund for young adult cancer survivors. And this is very special because while we’re hoping to help patients become cancer free, we realize cancer isn’t free. So, this fund provides financial assistance grants to young adult cancer survivors to help them move forward after a cancer diagnosis.

Justine Phoenix

You opened your comments by saying that most people have been impacted by cancer in some way, and that is for sure. This may be a little personal question, Maggie. What is your connection to the cancer community?

Maggie Dombroski

My mother passed away from cancer when I was 12 years old. And, that’s something that really motivates me for this year’s event. I have a team in the Distance Challenge called Anne’s Fans; we’re walking in memory of my mom. My siblings, nieces and nephews are also on the team. My husband and my two daughters are also on the team.

And, you know, while it’s extremely sad that my mother passed away from cancer, I celebrate at the same time that I’m a cancer survivor. I had a childhood cancer of the kidney. I’ve been a survivor of cancer now for over 30 years, which is amazing. And back in 2016, when I was planning my wedding, you know, newly engaged, I had another cancer scare, a doctor found a lump in my breast. It’s an anxiety provoking experience when you’re thinking about a cancer diagnosis. The work that EMF is doing provides hope to those who are newly diagnosed, those who might become diagnosed and cancer survivors. So, I’m really inspired by the work that Expect Miracles Foundation is doing in the cancer community. Through the funding of events like Distance Challenge, and all of the support that EMF has provided, cancers are being discovered earlier. There are new drug therapies coming out, and one of our research labs is focusing on metastatic cancers. That’s what my mother passed away from. Right now, there are more roads to living longer, healthier, happier lives.

Justine Phoenix

I’m so sorry to hear that. I think you’re doing an amazing job. There’s just so, so many personal stories here.

Maggie Dombroski

Thank you. Yes. Everyone has a story.

Justine Phoenix

You mentioned the Distance Challenge started during the pandemic.

Maggie Dombroski

Yes, exactly. 2024 marks five years of the Distance Challenge.

This event was created out of necessity. As I mentioned, Expect Miracles Foundation is an organization that thrives and operates off of in-person events. We hold golf tournaments, we hold galas. And when those weren’t able to be happening, we had to pivot. We had to think of our next big initiative, and that became the Distance Challenge, an event that has really taken off.

It’s a chance for the financial services industry and beyond to come together and to get moving and have an opportunity to make a difference, through this global virtual event.

Justine Phoenix

This has got to be one of the largest charity events in the financial services industry. If you had a couple things to say, what makes this event so special?

Maggie Dombroski

One of my favorite things about this event is that it’s a team building and unifying event for companies. It can bring together every level of the organization, from the CEO to the newly minted associate, so everyone can join together behind Expect Miracles Foundation’s mission. Although the majority of participants are from the financial services industry, everyone is welcome.

Friends and family are invited to join corporate teams or start their own teams. And as I mentioned, we let participants of any age participate. My three-year old daughter and my ten- month-old daughter is participating in this year’s event. The girls are going to bike and walk seven miles with me, pushed in the stroller or on the back of a bike.

We appreciate any level of participation from any age group in a family. The Distance Challenge is accessible to all, because you can choose your activity. If you are a cancer patient yourself, you’re going the distance every day. And there are cancer patients in the financial services industry.

We don’t want people to feel like they need to run a marathon, or bike 150 miles. Whatever you do throughout the course of the week that you define as going the distance is amazing. We invite all to participate.

So the point is to just get moving.

Justine Phoenix

Just get moving.

Maggie Dombroski

Exactly.

Justine Phoenix

Okay. What other things should our listeners know?

Maggie Dombroski

The great thing about the Distance Challenge is fundraising is encouraged, but it’s optional. So, we want you to join us. Just get involved, get moving, learn more about us and wear your event shirt and tell others about our mission.

Justine Phoenix

Is there anything new that you’ve introduced this year?

Maggie Dombroski

Yes. We’re actually adding an in-person element to this virtual event. We’re hosting warm up parties. It’s going to be Boston on May 7th at Central Wharf, where we have a chance to bring participants together for an informal and fun celebration to kick off everything before the Distance Challenge week begins on May 14.

Justine Phoenix

All right. Fantastic. So, Maggie, just one more thing for those who are thinking about joining and want to get moving in the fight against cancer; is there a website or somewhere we can go to sign up?

Maggie Dombroski

Yes. emfdistancechallenge.org. On that website you can click Register. You can search for your company in the search bar and see if you’re company is already involved, or join us as an individual. We look forward to seeing you on the leaderboard!

Justine Phoenix

Oh well thank you so much for joining us today. Fantastic organization! We’re so happy to have you here. And thanks for all the information you provided. And we just want all the listeners to get moving.

Maggie Dombroski

Thank you. Thank you. We are so appreciative to NICSA, and the continued support! Great to chat with you today.

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Make Miracles

Join us in the fight against cancer and be part of the community that is making miracles happen today. Your donation is an investment in our Innovation and Discovery Funds, which invests in life-saving cancer research, and EMF's SAMFund, which provides financial assistance for young adult cancer survivors.

Invest in Hope

Corporate sponsors lead our life-saving mission and gain access to influential business networking opportunities at EMF events, which range from galas to golf tournaments and more. As a sponsor you can cultivate relationships in the financial services industry while having a life-changing impact on the cancer community.