Four years ago, Richard Spayde lay in a bed at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center battling leukemia.
The prognosis? Bleak.
But the six months he spent in that bed gave Spayde enough time to make promises to himself, and promises to people he had yet to meet.
"It's a long time to think about what you would do differently, and how you would manage your life," said Spayde, 42, who works for Wachovia Securities. "You think about what you will do if you get a second chance, and you come to some amazing conclusions.
"Now I have an opportunity to put that into place, and it's a neat thing."
After two complete bone marrow transfusions, Spayde has regained his health and believes the worst is behind him. Those promises and changes have made him one of the driving forces behind the 1Voice Foundation, a new pediatric cancer nonprofit enjoying remarkable success after launching less than three months ago.
The mission of 1Voice can be summed up with this mantra: the cause, the care and the cure. It seeks to provide families with objective information regarding treatment options, and emotional and financial support. And it involves funding research that will lead to less-toxic treatments, and, ultimately, a cure.
Spayde, who serves as treasurer, is one of six founders. He joins foundation president Steve Brickner and his wife, Jami; vice presidents Keith Sedita of Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Ryan Whittemore of Ocean Reef Capital Advisors; and secretary Heather Shaw of Saks Fifth Avenue.
The founders draw part of their inspiration from a group of mothers who lost their children to cancer.
"One of the mothers had a child who died at 19 months," Sedita said. "She told us she spent the last three months of her child's life on the phone with the insurance company. That's a fundamental problem."
In November, 1Voice sold all 72 seats (at $175 per person) for its first fundraiser, an evening with wine artist Thomas Arvid.
But that's just the start.
Next week, the foundation will partner with the foundations of Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham and boxer Antonio Tarver to sponsor four events, including a charity golf tournament and VIP dinner on Thursday, and a celebrity party at MOSI on Saturday. Rock group Sister Hazel is scheduled to lend a hand to the efforts, and 1Voice also will be one of the benefactors of Jordin Sparks' two-day event during Super Bowl week.
1Voice also has six other events scheduled for the rest of the year. For more information, go to www.1voicefoundation.org.
"For so much support to come out for us right now is beyond what we planned," said Steve Brickner, the president. "When we sit in the board meetings and we get the news, it shocks a lot of us."
What impresses me most is that the founders were undaunted about starting this initiative in the midst of a down economy. In fact, that challenge really didn't cross their minds.
"Cancer doesn't care about the state of the economy and families need help now," Spayde said. "It's times of challenge that really create opportunity.
"Every single person has an incredible amount of passion. The combined efforts of everybody have taken us to where we're at, and the possibilities are amazing."
The founders and board members have different motivations, but united they have one voice — one strong enough to rise above the economic realities of the day.
That's all I'm saying.