“Heart disease is an issue that’s very important to me and my family,” says Travis Burt, Co-founder of Transportation Impact. It is also an issue that’s very important to Burt’s “extended family” at the company. In February 2013, Burt suffered a mild heart attack that led to the discovery of blockage in three of his arteries. Burt, 49 at the time, underwent a triple bypass procedure that was fully successful, but the shock of what had happened woke up everyone at the company to the reality that heart disease is the number two killer in North Carolina.
Since then, the company has donated regularly to the American Heart Association, but 2018 is turning out to be extra special in terms of the relationship between the two. Early last year, Burt and his wife, Cassie, were approached about chairing the Down East Heart Ball, one of the biggest annual fundraisers for the Eastern North Carolina branch of the association. Held in Greenville, NC, it’s an evening that celebrates the lives saved and improved because of everyone’s countless efforts.
“It was a great honor to be asked to chair the ball,” says Burt. “I didn’t think we’d have much of an impact, but we reached out to Henry Hinton, who owns a number of radio stations in the Greenville area, and we were very fortunate that he gave us his full support.” Thanks in large part to the promotion provided by Hinton, the ball, which was held on February 17, 2018, sold out and raised more than $100,000.
Burt and Cassie were of course thrilled about the success of the ball, especially considering that most of the money raised goes to support heart disease research at Greenville’s East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine and other regional research institutes such as Vidant Medical Center and the Eastern Carolina Heart Institute.
“We are truly fortunate to have a concentration of tremendous medical research in Eastern North Carolina,” says Burt. “The research done with the money that is fundraised will benefit us or someone we know. Heart disease touches all of us.”
Inspired by the success of the ball, Transportation Impact’s Marketing Coordinator, Jillian Farrington, Partner Development Supervisor Leslie Sutton, and marketing contractor Lauren Edmondson decided to dedicate the company’s IMPACT1 initiative for February to the American Heart Association. But they thought it would be fun to give it a twist.
“Lauren noticed that February 22 is National Polar Bear Day,” says Farrington, “so we thought, let’s do a Polar Plunge as a fundraiser!” They got the enthusiastic support of the company’s managing partners, Keith Byrd, Burt, and Doug Starcke, who put themselves in the hot seat to take a dip into the cold Atlantic. Whoever had the most money donated in their name would have to take a swim in the frigid winter waters.
Joining in the spirit of fun, members of the local community, company employees, and also customers of TI across the country voted with their dollars for who should take that swim. In fact, the contest was so popular that the fundraising goal of $5000 was met in only five days. And the winner, with a total of $1900, was . . . Keith Byrd!
Triumphant with his victory, Byrd took to the water with gusto. “I was impressed with the enthusiasm with which Keith tried to swim to England,” says Burt with a laugh.
The event was a success not only in the money raised. “We wanted to broaden the reach of IMPACT1 and spread awareness of heart disease and the work done by the American Heart Association,” says Farrington, “and the Polar Plunge achieved that goal. We are grateful to everyone who donated.”