BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The president/CEO of the $1.5 billion First Tech Credit Union here, Thomas E. Sargent, is both direct and passionate about helping sick kids.
"Just go into one of those children's hospitals and you'll see the bravest and most courageous human beings," intones Sargent, who has been a leader in CU causes for years ranging from political action and product innovation to trust and league management.
So it was hardly surprising when the board of the Salt Lake City-based Children's Miracle Network last summer finally decided to recognize industry contributions, reaching down into CU ranks to pick the respected Sargent as its chairman.
With peers lauding the First Tech CEO for his "vision and leadership" in Oregon causes, including CMN, Sargent thus became the first CU executive to hold the job.
Since 1996 CUs have been a prime sponsor of CMN developing the widely adopted Credit Unions For Kids program, which has helped generate almost $50 million benefiting 170 children's hospitals across the U.S.
Though CUs now rank third in yearly contributions to the network at $7 million behind Wal-Mart at $30 million and RE/MAX Realtors at $10 million, Sargent is convinced, without denigrating past successes, that lots more can be done for this cause in more states.
"This is a program that fits our mission perfectly and the potential for doing well for this charity is tremendous," declares Sargent, maintaining a CU chairman can give CMN a higher profile and more exposure where it counts.
"The $7 million could be $50 million," predicts Sargent as he pushes for more CUs, their state leagues, chapters and other groups to get more active.
He also points to the 88 million CU members, claiming that if each member gave $1, CU contributions could mushroom.
Such events as Washington's annual Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run in April, October's Texas Twister Run in Austin, Texas or the California Credit Unions for Kids Wine Auction all showcase the cooperative nature of the CU movement by uniting CU executives, employees, and affiliates in support of a single cause, said Sargent.
According to Sargent, those past efforts of bake sales, raffles, book signings, spare change collection, sponsorships of specific CMN "champions" or "children in need" simply have to be repeated on a wider scale, particularly in states where campaigns have been limited.
Which is why he and CUNA Chairman Juri Valdov, who heads up the April 1 Cherry Blossom Run, two weeks ago singled out a planned Columbus-to-Cincinnati relay walkathon also in April "as a great example, an innovative idea" that can be pulled off on the local level.
"The more of these kinds of events the merrier," said Valdov who joins Sargent in supporting more CMN events as a way to raise the CU advocacy profile and its positive role in communities, a factor that often gets overlooked by lawmakers and the media.
Since the official appointment last July as CMN chairman, Sargent has sought to broaden CU participation by naming for the first time a seven-member "Credit Unions For Kids National Advisory Board."
The board is slated to hold its first meeting April 2 at CMN's "Celebration" in Orlando, Fla., an annual conference of corporate sponsors this year featuring an appearance by TV singing star Marie Osmond, a CMN founder.
Members of the advisory board include: Bill Cheney, president/CEO of the California/Nevada Credit Union Leagues; Mark Wolff, CUNA's senior vice president of communications; Brett Martinez, president/CEO of Redwood CU, Santa Rosa, Calif.; Sarah Canepa Bang, CEO of Financial Service Centers Coop., San Dimas, Calif.; Theresa Mann, president/CEO of FDIC FCU, Arlington, Va. and Tim Haegelin, president/CEO of San Antonio City Employees FCU in Texas. Also on the board is Bill Butler, president/CEO of Ohio Healthcare Federal Credit Union of Dublin, Ohio, and organizer of the planned 180-mile "Miracle March" across Ohio with CEOs and volunteers from CUs slated to participate from April 1-19 visiting CUs and children's hospitals along the way for maximum media coverage. In Oregon, Sargent, himself, is proud that First Tech has for years led the way in successful CMN ventures citing the "Hank & Moose Open" summer golf tournament, a one-day celebrity event bringing in CEOs from CUs across the country and named after the two New York Yankees baseball stars, the late Hank Bauer and Moose Skowron.
Both of the sluggers had flown from their homes in Kansas City and Chicago to take part in the golf match, now in its eighth year and whose idea was suggested by another star, Mickey Mantle.
A baseball fan, Sargent has been close friends with all three World Series players and last week attended Bauer's funeral in Kansas City.
"Our plan is to continue the tournament in honor of Hank," said Sargent.
Three years ago "Hank & Moose" brought in a record $300,000 for CMN and Sargent hopes the CMN totals for the eight years will top $1.7 million.
"Let me say that Hank & Moose is just a good example of how Tom has demonstrated his leadership skills for all of us in Oregon," said Scott Burgess, president/CEO of the $360 million Rivermark Credit Union in Beaverton, which every Christmas holds a popular "Cookie Dough" CMN promotion with totals reaching $39,000 for Doernbecher Children's Hospital of Portland.
Sargent's involvement with CMN became more personal in January when his baby granddaughter, Vivian, needed care at Doernbecher's.
"When something like this happens in your own family, you come away more inspired," said Sargent adding he came away impressed by the expert care given to Vivian. Vivian, he added, was released Feb. 5 "and is doing just fine now." --firstname.lastname@example.org