Daily Point of Light # 1972 Aug 24, 2001

How can a 100% volunteer organization raise more than $8 million dollars for research? Not without the unfailing help of a dedicated volunteer. Sandy Wimsatt has served as Families of SMA’s fundraising chairman for more than four years. She has brought creative energy to a position that is critical to the success of the organization.

Families of SMA is comprised of 18 national chapters, three international affiliates and more than 4000 member families. It is the only organization that funds research, provides patient and family support and information, loans equipment to patients, and sponsor educational conferences and support groups.

SMA, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, is the leading genetic killer of children under the age of two. It is a group of inherited diseases that destroy the nerves controlling voluntary movement such as crawling, walking, head and neck control, and swallowing. Wimsatt’s five-year-old son, Michael, has SMA.

Earlier this year Families of SMA contracted with Aurora Bioscience, a private Biotech Company, to find as drug compound, which will help treat SMA. This is a $2.6 million commitment. This step would not have been financially possible without the fundraising leadership of Sandy Wimsatt. Since she began volunteering in this position, fundraising has increased more than three-fold.

Most of the funds raised for Families of SMA do not come from large grants and donations; most come from grassroots efforts by individuals around the world. Wimsatt guides volunteers and encourages fundraising events ranging from golf outings to a coloring contest held by a 10-year-old boy. There is no project too large or too small, as long as the goal is raising money to find a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

Wimsatt has also added a level of professionalism to the fundraising efforts. Because Families of SMA is a 100% volunteer group, details were slipping through the cracks. Wimsatt developed a system that guarantees that every donor is recognized and entered into a database of supporters, she tracks where the dollars are coming from and where they go, so that $.80 of every dollar is spent on research and less than $.10 of every dollar donated to Families of SMA is spent on administrative costs.

Wimsatt tries to stay out of the spotlight, preferring that the focus go to the hundreds of volunteers who bring in the funds that will lead to a cure for this disease. However, she is THE motivator that has helped this organization grow from one that raised approximately $300,000 a year to one that raises between $2-$3 million a year.