Anyone who has met Craig Smith will not be surprised to know that his heart expanded – literally and figuratively. He has always been a people person, so when he fell in love with nonprofit work, the Eye & Ear Foundation proved a perfect fit.
Before the Johnstown native joined the team in 2019, however, he was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, meaning his heart had expanded and was not working efficiently. For a year and a half, he had a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) until he received a heart transplant.
In 2016, Craig started his own nonprofit called Second Chance Fundraising to help increase awareness for organ, tissue, and cornea donation. Since then, over $60,000 has been raised by holding 5Ks, golf tournaments, bowling events, and more. One of the most fun things the nonprofit does, Craig says, is to go out in the community as mascot Pumper the Heart. In 2018, they did a video campaign to show that transplant patients can still fully live their lives. This was right up Craig’s alley, as he calls himself an adventurer and traveler who loves outdoor activities like hunting, fly fishing, and hiking.
“All summer, I dressed as Pumper and did a bunch of crazy activities like whitewater rafting, cliff jumping, riding roller coasters, playing roller derby, and more,” Craig recalls. “It’s a lot of fun!”
This passion project of Craig’s is what made him fall in love with nonprofit work. As a Senior Development Associate, he describes his role as sort of a mixture between having his hand in many aspects of EEF, such as writing, research, and running reports, while also expanding and improving upon his development skills. His research and target areas include cornea, glaucoma, voice center, sino-nasal/sleep, and Ophthalmology alumni.
“It’s nice to be involved in a variety of areas,” Craig says. “The biggest thing I love about this work is getting to meet so many people with so many different stories and backgrounds. It’s great to form relationships with them and be able to share in all the exciting things we get to see going on within the departments. Most of the people that get involved with or donate to the Foundation are very passionate about it, so to be able to witness their excitement and feel like we’re all making progress together on some of these issues is a great feeling.”