Board Member Aron Weingard on Being Named a Finalist for the “Invest in Others Emerging Impact” Award

We’re proud to announce that our long-time volunteer and Experience Camps board member, Aron Weingard, is a finalist for the “Invest in Others Emerging Impact Award”! This honor is awarded to Wealth Advisors who make the biggest impact in nonprofits across the U.S. and around the world. To put this recognition in perspective, there are over 300,000 financial advisors in the U.S. Hundreds were nominated. Aron is one of three finalists for the Emerging Impact Award. This honor is awarded to the nation’s most charitably impactful Wealth Advisor under the age of 45.

What motivated you to become involved with our nonprofit?

It all started when Experience Camps began in 2009. I was invited to volunteer as a counselor at our Maine program, where we hosted 27 grieving boys. Candidly, I was especially excited to go back to a place that I love: Camp Manitou, where I spent many summers of my childhood.

I also thought about my best friend, Brian, who went to Camp Manitou with me and whose dad died when we were 14. I remembered how isolating, devastating, and painful that seemed to be for him – and I thought about how many kids would benefit from feeling lifted up by friendships, camp joy, and the experience of camp.

Each summer, I can’t wait to see the kids’ faces when they get off the bus and they embark upon a life-changing experience that helps them rediscover joy, know they aren’t alone, and gain confidence in themselves and their futures.

Aron in front row on far left with campers from Experience Camps this past summer

Can you walk us through your general involvement with Experience Camps?

I started volunteering with Experience Camps as a counselor in 2009, the first year the camp was established. I was 24.

Since then, I co-created the Leaders-in-Training program, with Wiley Cerilli, for 16- and 17-year-old campers, dedicated time to running our social media accounts, expanded our fundraising event footprint in 2013-2015 to PA and FL, led the Junior Counselor program for former campers, and co-led the expansion of Experience Camps, with Brian Klein, to provide for children of the Southeast, U.S.

Since 2016, I have had a wonderful experience serving on the Board of Directors as the Fundraising Chair (2020-2021) and Board Development & Governance Chair (2019). Over the years, I’ve contributed as a member of the Strategic Planning and Investment Committees of the Board of Directors.

Each summer, I’m a volunteer counselor at our Maine and Georgia locations. All in all, I’ve volunteered at 19 camp programs! I feel eternally grateful to grow and learn – and to help others do the same. I’m also grateful for the tears, the hugs, the lost voices, and the many times I injured my back (!) by providing one too many piggyback rides.

Why is this cause and/or organization important to you?

It changes the lives of children. There is truly no better use of my time than to help Experience Camps. I’ve always known and believed that we change the lives of these campers, but it wasn’t until this past August that it became clear to me that we are saving lives. I say this because at this year’s final campfire in Georgia, at least 10 boys independently shared that they had seriously contemplated suicide before they found Experience Camps. We give kids hope and help them feel less alone.

On the final morning of camp, one of those 10 boys told me, “My goal is to share my grief story with as many people as will listen, whether it’s one person or 15,000 people. I know how much it helped me to hear other people’s stories.”

What comes to mind when you think about the 19 camps that you’ve experienced?

I think about my 2009 camper Keith, who lost his dad to a hang-gliding accident. When he came to camp, he felt alone and broken. However, as the years went on, he gained confidence in himself and his future. Today, he is my co-counselor, dedicated to supporting our younger campers. Keith graduated from school and is now a firefighter. Keith’s transformation is one of many shining examples of what our camps are all about.

Describe your proudest achievement through your work with this nonprofit.

I am most proud of how I led as Fundraising Chair of the Board of Directors. My term began in 2020, when we were faced with unprecedented adversity due to the cancellation of camp and fundraising events due to the pandemic. We could have backed down and made excuses, but we did not because the kids needed us more than ever.

How did you pull that off?

Me? I would say WE pulled it off! It was a team effort and required full board buy-in to elevate the fundraising culture of the board by developing a Signature Initiative program, for which each member created their own initiative to maximize their fundraising impact and – important to me – their own personal fulfillment. Board members were creative and resourceful leveraging their networks, superpowers, and passions to develop major donor plans, “legacy funds” to raise six figures to honor the memory of a loved one, or campaigns to address the “Grief Gap” and help more children of color.

In addition, the volunteers deserve tremendous credit for our ability as an organization to somehow take a step forward during this challenging time. In 2020 and 2021, we raised nearly $1.2 million via crowdfunding; for context, we raised $500,000 in 2018 and 2019. I am proud of the fact that I helped to create an environment where the volunteer fundraisers felt empowered, invigorated and most importantly to me, fulfilled – as evidenced by an 85% retention rate of Crowdfunders from 2020 to 2021. They gave their all and felt so good about it that they wanted to do it again in 2021!

You were selected as a finalist for the “Emerging Impact” award, presented to an advisor “making a mark in their community through their outstanding commitment of time, talent, and resources to a nonprofit over a period of at least 3 years.” How does that feel?

I view it as a team award – truly. I say that because a large portion of my drive to help Experience Camps stems from my admiration and respect for the people involved. I want to do right by them and make them proud.

Also, I feel grateful to have had these experiences that have helped me be a better friend, family member, teammate, and leader. I feel fortunate and lucky to be a part of Experience Camps.

Lastly, while it certainly feels great to think about the life changing impact that we have made, I also think about the opportunity ahead of us. The fact that there are 5.6 million grieving kids who will experience the death of a parent or sibling in our country feels sad and unfair. However, our ability to change lives is inspiring and highlights the opportunity for us to continue to make sound decisions and to help more kids.

There is so much more work to be done. I’m honored to be a part of the journey as we turn the next page in the chapter of our growth and seek to help thousands of more kids.

 What are the next steps for the award?

On September 29, 2022, Invest in Others will host a Gala at the Boston Westin Seaport with over 700 attendees. The event will apparently feel like the Oscars! For each award, Invest in Others will show videos of each finalist. And then, they open the envelope to recognize the winner on stage.

The nonprofit of each finalist will get at a minimum $25,000 – and the winner will receive $50,000!