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Akorn’s generous donation was presented to Glaucoma Research Foundation during the Glaucoma 360 Annual Gala in San Francisco on February 6, 2020. The corporate gift included support from an employee giving program during Glaucoma Awareness Month in January.
Akorn has been a leader in the eye care product business for almost fifty years. Since 1971, they’ve been building partnerships in the eye care community. They not only strive to provide the best treatments to patients, but work to educate customers, physicians, and their own employees about diseases of the eye. This year, they chose to focus on glaucoma.
“Employees really wanted to rally around something,” says Rhonda Pavicich, Akorn’s senior strategic marketing manager. “We realized we could support people actually looking for a cure. And then we said ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could fund a scientist?’”
With Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF), they found the perfect partner. Akorn and GRF already had close ties. Dr. Adrienne Graves, member of Akorn’s Board of Directors, also serves on the GRF Board's Research Committee and Leadership Committee.
“I am proud of the leadership and all the employees of Akorn,” says Dr. Graves. “They have enthusiastically embraced both glaucoma education within the company and supported key research towards a cure. I think a side benefit for Akorn is that employees learned that many of their products are helping to preserve sight — it gives them a sense of pride in their company and the vital role they each play in bringing products to market.”
Akorn’s company-wide fundraising campaign took place during the month of January —Glaucoma Awareness month — with the goal of funding a researcher through a Shaffer Grant. Led by Rhonda and Regina Assaf, Akorn’s portfolio and stakeholder strategy director, the organization saw it as an opportunity, to not only raise money for a good cause, but also to educate their customers and employees about glaucoma, and the importance of regular eye exams.
Akorn has offices and operating facilities in Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, and Switzerland. During January 2020, Rhonda and Regina visited every US location and gave presentations about glaucoma and GRF. The two talked with employees about how Akorn eye care products help patients, and about GRF’s groundbreaking research and patient outreach efforts. And most importantly, why everyone should have their eyes checked regularly.
To make it fun and get everyone involved, Akorn managers raffled off premier parking spaces, gift cards and gift baskets, and Amanda Deer jewelry by designer Amanda Eddy (a glaucoma patient and GRF donor). At every location, employee volunteers gave out pins, buttons, glaucoma education brochures from GRF, and sunglasses to remind people to get checked, while Rhonda and Regina challenged employees to put on eye masks and try eating lunch, to feel what it’s like to be visually impaired.
“We had nearly 100% participation,” says Rhonda about the eye mask challenge. “People really took it to heart.”
As an unexpected bonus, the month-long campaign built a strong sense of community within the entire company, says Regina. “Everyone seems so connected now, which has been especially important during the pandemic.”
In January of 2019, a new CEO and president took the helm at Akorn. According to many, Douglas Boothe brought a revived sense of caring to the company that bolstered the success of the fundraising effort.
“Everybody got involved,” says Rhonda. “We were blown away. Our leadership really drove this, offering to match employee donations out of their own pockets.”
In the final tally, Akorn raised $50,000 for GRF, enough to fund a Shaffer Grant for one scientist looking for a cure. The employees were extremely proud of their effort, but many felt like they got back just as much, or more, in return.
“We feel like we got more out of this than anyone,” says Regina. “Knowing that we might have saved one person’s eyesight by getting checked…it was all worth it.”
Rhonda agrees: “I’ve been in the industry for many years. This is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”
Akorn employees are already asking what they can raise money for next year. Rhonda and Regina are not sure about that just yet, but they have another idea.
“What if we challenged all pharmaceutical companies who come to Glaucoma 360 next year to do a similar fundraising campaign at their companies? Wouldn’t that be amazing?”
Watch a video of the Akorn gift presentation from the Glaucoma 360 Gala. Pictured from left: Thomas Brunner (GRF President & CEO), Douglas Boothe (Akorn President & CEO), and Adrienne Graves, PhD (GRF & Akorn Board of Directors).
Last reviewed on June 23, 2020