This week, ING DIRECT signed on as a presenting sponsor for the Ride Now program, through the hard work of Philadelphia Ride co-chairs, Doug Fischer, Robert Rzeczkowski,
and Laurie Riggs. ING will donate $20,000 to each of the four Ride Now events in 2007. ING DIRECT will also donate a custom-made bike, valued at $40,000, to be raffled off at a future event.
Ride Now, which began 5 years ago in Chicago, is a celebration of motorcycles, chrome, and music, raising much-needed funding for biomedical research and awareness in autism. It has since grown to four cities in 2007, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Washington DC. We have already begun a wonderful working relationship with ING Direct, thanks to Bob George (Customer Maximization Leader), Scott Lugar (head of Consumer Direct Lending), and our Philly Ride now chairs, that we look forward to continuing and growing throughout the coming years. Read more about the Ride Now program .
Below is an interview with Bob George, Customer Maximization Leader at ING Direct, who is passionate about both ING DIRECT and autism. Bob started at ING DIRECT seven years ago and was part of the start up team, as the 24th employee in the company in March of 2000.
ING DIRECT Executive, Bob George, pictured with his son Nicky
He helped start the Sales team from scratch and ran the team for six years. The last year and a half he has been part of the Direct Lending team helping customers obtain mortgages and making sure their experience with ING DIRECT is better than anywhere else.
Q: How has autism affected your life?
A: Autism has affected my life in a number of ways. When my son was diagnosed seven years ago, I felt our lives were always going to be different, and I was in denial for awhile. All the hopes and dreams I had for my son Nicholas were reevaluated, from him playing baseball, to him just trying to say his name. This has been an enormous strain on my family's lives and very hard for me to deal with for my son. I want so much to squeeze him hard and make him better, but I know it takes a lot more than that. This is one of the main reasons I feel passionately about doing something different. My son Nicky has made me a better person. I'm so much more in tune with special needs children and my heart goes out to all of them.
Q: How have you made a difference within the autism community?
I've been very fortunate at ING DIRECT, that while our main focus is on helping foster children and focusing on Financial Literacy, they've always stepped up to the plate to help me when I've asked for something related to autism. We have sponsored golf tournaments and the Autism Auction held by the Autism Society of Delaware on a few separate occasions.
Q: What motivated you to begin working with Autism Speaks?
A: In June of 2007, ING DIRECT sponsored the Ride for Independence, a charity event raising over $175,000 for our Kids Foundation. At that event, Arkadi Kuhlmann, our CEO, met representatives from Cure Autism Now/Autism Speaks. They asked for his support and of course we said,“Yes.”
Like I stated before, I've helped in the community for the last seven years, but haven't been able to do anything on a wider scale. When I learned more about what Autism Speaks does, I felt this could be the time to go after something big. Seven years ago, when we learned that Nicky had autism, Arkadi told me that one day we would do something big. Well, this is it. He has said that this isn't about why are you doing it, it was how much do you need? This is one of the main reasons why this company is different than others.
Q: What do you hope to achieve through this partnership?
A: ING DIRECT and I hope to help Autism Speaks raise enough money and awareness to help find a cure for my son, and all of the children and adults with autism. It's time to fight and I'm tired of sitting on the sidelines and doing little things in the community. I also want to recognize that ING DIRECT is standing up for autism. This is an underdog disease in regards to funding compared to others, and when ING DIRECT hears that something can't be done or someone needs help, we step up and say, yes you can.
Q: What do you hope to achieve for the autism community? What are your hopes for the future?
A: Well, I hope that our help and support will assist in finding a cure. I think the future is brighter than when my son was originally diagnosed. We are nowhere near where we need to be in regards to funding and awareness, but we've come a long way since 1999.
Q: What made you interested in joining the effort to combat autism?
A: I've always been an extremely competitive and passionate person by nature, but when my son was diagnosed I felt that I could cure him. I know that sounds crazy, but I truly believed I could change his life for the better. My wife and I have given him a very good life, but he is nonverbal and on the more severe side of the spectrum. This is why ING DIRECT and I have come to you to join the fight and hope to be in it for the long haul. My boss, Scott Lugar, helped to play a big part in making this happen. He supported this cause from the beginning and will be riding in all of the events this year.