Where are they now? (The fundraising edition)

| Steve Bieler

More than fifty years ago, the National Psoriasis Foundation was born from the need to create a community for people living with psoriatic disease. Today, one of the ways we maintain and build that community is through Team NPF.

All over the United States, people gather to walk, run and cycle, make friends, get some exercise and fresh air and help NPF drive efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. They can also attend one of our Team NPF Bingo nights or create their own event through Team NPF DIY.

But Team NPF wasn’t launched until 2013. How did we raise money and have fun back in the old days? To answer that question, let’s take a trip to 1988 and the backyard of Debbie and Scott Oppenheim of Encino, California.

The host and hostess

Scott Oppenheim, an attorney living with psoriasis, and his wife, Debbie, a speech and language pathologist, wanted to do something to help NPF. “We acted from the need to be supportive of the Foundation with fundraising,” Debbie Oppenheim said. “There were not many individuals doing anything then.” 

The Oppenheims decided to throw a party. “We invited our friends and family,” she said. “We received donations from local stores and caterers. And [former NPF Executive Director] Gail Zimmerman was very helpful in finding NPF members in our area.” 

The March/April 1988 issue of the Bulletin (the predecessor of Psoriasis Advance) reported on their party, which was themed “A Summer Supper.” A chef prepared gourmet omelets for each of the 100 guests. “We had to pay the Omelet Man,” Oppenheim said. “I think he gave us a reduced rate. Everything else was donated. Our friends provided the music and entertainment.”

Debbie and Scott Oppenheim with a good friend

According to the article in the Bulletin, the event raised $4,000 for NPF. “Really? That much?” Oppenheim asked when she was reminded. “That was a lot of money in 1988!”

Zimmerman, who became executive director in 1979 and retired as president and CEO in 2007, said via email, “We [had] several locally inspired fundraisers when we were smaller. We had a strong membership, and they were motivated to get involved.”

According to Debbie Oppenheim, these days her husband “is doing well. His psoriasis is under control.” When they’re not entertaining guests, the Oppenheims raise puppies for Guide Dogs of America.

The rainmaker

Martin Wolfberg was on the Board of Trustees (now known as our Board of Directors) for nine years in the 1980s and ’90s. Because Wolfberg’s son had a “pretty tough case of guttate,” he took his volunteer responsibilities seriously. “I wasn’t just a trustee four times a year when we met in Portland,” he said. “I was a trustee all year round.”

During his years on the board, he created a fundraising golf tournament at the Green Brook Country Club in North Caldwell, New Jersey. Wolfberg, who was chairman of a corporation in the New York City area, used his connections and organizational know-how to get people onto the links.

Martin Wolfberg, 1990 Board of Trustees

He held the first tournament to benefit NPF at the Green Brook Country Club in 1991, and the event raised $125,000. “The day after the tournament ended, we started working on the next one,” Wolfberg said. The 1992 event, reported in the July/August 1992 Bulletin, attracted 144 golfers, and another 130 people joined them for a celebratory dinner that night. This time, they raised $250,000. “And that was net!” Wolfberg proudly said.

Wolfberg, who is retired, still loves to golf.

The one-woman show

Our first walk, the Walk for Awareness, was held in Portland, Oregon, on July 25, 2006. The event raised $13,000. By the end of 2008, NPF had brought the Walk for Awareness to 10 cities and raised almost $1 million. People like Diane Talbert helped NPF make the walk idea successful by doing it her way.

Talbert, of Temple Hills, Maryland, has had psoriasis for 50 years. She recalled, “I was talking with my doctor about how to get the word out about psoriasis, and he said, ‘Diane, why don’t you put on a walk?’ I said, ‘A walk? How do you put on a walk?’ Well, I learned how. I was a one-woman show — with a little help from my family. Then, when I got almost 200 people signed up, NPF sent someone out to help me.”

Diane Talbert

The 5K walk was set for Washington, D.C., in August or September 2007. The exact amount Talbert and her fellow walkers raised has been lost to history. But they had fun walking and raising money for their cause. 

“For 2008, people wanted to do it again, but they asked us to please put on the walk when it wouldn’t be so hot,” Talbert said.

Over the next four years, Talbert attended 13 NPF events, including two more walks, Capitol Hill Day, More Than Skin Deep and the National Volunteer Conference.

What does the future hold?

Team NPF has raised more than $10 million since that first walk in 2006. When you combine highly motivated and organized individuals who want to have fun with a mission like beating psoriatic disease, the money practically raises itself.

Team NPF has a goal of raising more than $4 million a year by 2019, and we’re off to a fantastic start. Team NPF Bingo has been such a success since its birth in 2015 that we brought this event to seven cities in 2017. Team NPF Cycle, which also launched in 2015, has also spread across the country. And in 2017, we finally went bowling.

There are at least 40 Team NPF events scheduled in 2018, and there will be even more if you pursue one of your own ideas, just like Debbie and Scott Oppenheim, Martin Wolfberg and Diane Talbert. We can all learn from the past. Team NPF DIY is ready to help you!

Other stories in this series

Where are they now?

Where are they now? (The mothers and daughters edition)

The researchers who quietly made history

Driving discovery, creating community

For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.

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