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Industry Charities: Looking out for one another

Throughout the year, the exhibition industry finds many ways to help its fellow man by means of association fundraisers and charity events. One such organization dedicated primarily to supporting industry members is the Exhibit Designers + Producers Association (EDPA) Foundation.

Industry members gather in Braselton, Ga., for the 20th anniversary of RSMGC.


Dating back to 1954, the trade association itself has backed the industry by providing education and networking, and recognizing leaders and influencers. Formed in spring 2001, the EDPA Foundation forms the philanthropic arm of the association that provides financial support to the industry.

Recently restructured at EDPA Access 2013, an industry conference held Dec. 3-6 in Marco Island, Fla., the EDPA Foundation is described as a “three-legged stool” by Dave Flory, committee chair for chapter development committee, EDPA. Three key areas will benefit directly from proceeds raised through the Foundation’s efforts on both a national and local level:

  1. Charitable events: Supporting the Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic (RSMGC) and other charitable events.
  2. Education: Supporting industry-related learning institutions, including the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and Bemidji State University in Minnesota.
  3. Scholarships: Providing funding for students who will enter the design community.
Erik Ross and Katie Hull with Czarnowski at 20th Annual RSMGC in Braselton, Ga.
Erik Ross and Katie Hull with Czarnowski at 20th Annual RSMGC in Braselton, Ga.

Depending on company size, corporate sponsorship requires a three-year commitment to the Grantor Program, but also guarantees no other solicitation from the Foundation, excluding local chapter fundraising events and efforts. According to Flory, the Foundation hopes to be a self-sustaining trust after three years.

At its launch during EDPA Access 2013, the Grantor Program raised in excess of $100,000 toward the EDPA Foundation’s updated format. Acting as liaison between the EDPA Foundation and the RSMGC is industry icon Robert Laarhoven, owner, beMatrix USA. Laarhoven ensures both groups meet their goals by coordinating fundraising efforts between them.

EDPAF Grantor Program Committee Chair Bill Haney of Derse revealed during this year’s Randy, held Oct. 10 in Braselton, Ga., that since the program’s inception in December 2013, 42 companies pledged $400,000 with RSMGC as the primary beneficiary. A check for $50,000 was presented to the charity at its 20th anniversary.

Each chapter individually contributes to the overall program through self-selected local charities and events. EDPA chapters that host local golf tournaments for the RSMGC are the Upper Midwest, Midwest, Southeast, Las Vegas and Northern California divisions.

Largely supported by the Las Vegas and Midwest chapters, Exhibits 4 Smiles is another charitable program that benefits from the local efforts of exhibition industry members. Volunteers purchase holiday gifts for hospitalized children who are terminally ill.

Celebrating 60 years, EDPA will count fundraising as one of the categories when selecting a Chapter of the Year (COTY) at the second annual chapter competition during EDPA Access 2014, to be held Dec. 3-5 at Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla.

Among other judging criteria are membership activities, acquisition and retention rates; creativity, diversity and relevance of meetings, events and seminars; student assistance in the way of internships, workshops and scholarships; national programs; public relations; website design and development; and overall enthusiasm and creativity.

Adding four chapters this year, the EDPA welcomed the Mid-Atlantic chapter covering Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and D.C.; the Florida chapter; the Northeast chapter; and the reformation of the Southern California chapter.


“The Randy”

With tears in her eyes, the widow of the late Randy Smith was both saddened and humbled that her husband’s tragedy, a former IDEAS employee, brought out hundreds from the industry to both honor his memory and provide support for industry members and their families who suffered similar hardships.

Jennifer Smith described her late husband as a shy and quiet man who would be amazed by the turnout.

“Randy couldn’t have imagined it,” she said. “He loved his job. He came home every day and always said how much he loved his job and his boss [Ted Peterson].”

Co-founders Rich Johnson and Ted Peterson equally felt touched and overcome by the record participation 20 years later.

“A lot of past [RSMGC] recipients are here. It’s really humbling to see them come back and be part of the 20th year,” Peterson added.

Held Oct. 10 at Chateau Elan Golf Course in Braselton, Ga., the Smith family, including Randy’s first granddaughter, Emmalyn Grace Smith, gathered for the 20th annual Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic (RSMGC). Forty-two sponsors and 26 teams participated in this year’s historic outing for 12 total recipients.

Katie Hull, Czarnowski; Geoffrey Winslow, former owner, Ideas Inc.; Renee Long, Exhibitus; Doug Dowdy, former owner, IDEAS Inc.; Bess Thomas, Renaissance Mgmt
Katie Hull, Czarnowski; Geoffrey Winslow, former owner, Ideas Inc.; Renee Long, Exhibitus; Doug Dowdy, former owner, IDEAS Inc.; Bess Thomas, Renaissance Mgmt

Also present was 1999 RSMGC recipient Rhonda Pozza, widow of beloved industry member Frank Pozza, who worked at I&D Group, now known as Nth Degree. She attended this year’s event to support recipient Wendy Murray, tradeshow manager, Printronix, Panasonic and Siemens, and long-time client of her late husband.

Speaking about the sons of Randy Smith, who were 5 and 10 years old during the inaugural tournament, Pozza pointed out the positive impact the RSMGC has had on the two brothers growing up.

“It helped cultivated this whole experience with others in their lives,” Pozza stated. “The event is so meaningful and has given them a whole different perspective.”

Over the years, both Austin and his older brother, Justin, watched the trademark event grow both in reach and participation.

“It was cool to see a difference being made. It was about the industry coming together and helping a lot more people than just me,” said Austin.

“Since the beginning, it’s obviously only grown – seeing it grow into multiple cities like the Chicago 5k and the Atlanta bowling events. My hope is that it gains more recognition outside of the industry, since it’s already recognized within, and to be a full charity event for anyone who needs help.”

Both Jenny Smith and Rhonda Pozza expressed their appreciation for the extent to which the RSMGC has helped their own families during times of tragedy, but hoped that there could be a future event held solely for the sporting aspect.

“Every year I cross my fingers that there aren’t any recipients, but it’s not realistic,” wished Smith.

To commemorate the 20th year, the Smiths surprised co-founder Rich Johnson with a dedication video and plaque for his efforts in organizing the charity event each year. Johnson held Randy Smith’s first grandchild, nicknamed Emmy, in his arms as he humbly accepted the recognition.


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