Esther Heimer has been a pioneering philanthropist for the bleeding disorders community for nearly 20 years. She continues to solidify her commitment to research funding through building the right connections and mastering the art of the “ask.”
Esther’s philanthropic tendencies are a result of personal family ties and professional experiences. A recent interview with the National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) found that Esther had only brief exposure to hemophilia prior to her involvement with the community. “One of my students had hemophilia,” Esther explains. Esther taught high school mathematics in New York. “He was often absent and had a noticeable limp,” Esther says, “So notifications of blood drives for this student were not uncommon in school announcements.” Therefore, Esther had a general understanding of the severity of hemophilia. But it became personal when her granddaughter Rose was diagnosed with severe hemophilia A. The diagnosis was still a bit of a shock for her and her family.
Esther recalls that at just 9 months old, her granddaughter experienced an unexplainable bruise around her knee area. “No one in either my family or Rose’s father’s family was known to have bleeding issues,” Esther recollects, “So hemophilia was not initially considered as the cause of this bleed.” However, after Rose was officially diagnosed, Esther joined her daughter and son-in-law in running an independent, local blood drive. The blood drive was a success. It continued for more than 10 years, collecting between 70 and 100 pints of blood each drive.
As Esther became more vested in the community, she and her family began seeking out families with young children with bleeding disorders. With dedicated families joining forces, the New York City Hemophilia Chapter was founded. Esther’s daughter Shari was elected as the first president of the chapter. After that, Esther’s volunteer work hit a new stride. “I became quite involved in fundraising for the NYC Hemophilia Walk,” she says.
“My mother is respectfully assertive with her asks and follow-up,” says Shari Bender, Esther’s daughter. ”She knows that every dollar makes a difference.”
Such charisma and insistence are exactly what has earned Esther a spot among the top 10 Hemophilia Walk fundraisers in the nation. Her efforts brought in $7,106.88 for the New York City Hemophilia Chapter (NYCHC) in 2015. She and her walk team, Team Awesome, also exercised their philanthropic ambassador skills. Collectively, they gathered $39,614.88, catapulting Team Awesome to the #1 spot on the national list of Hemophilia Walk fundraising teams for 2015.
Esther couldn’t be more proud of the outpouring of support for her granddaughter and others living with bleeding disorders. She encourages others who are looking to make a difference to support bleeding disorders research because although there currently is no cure, she says great strides have been made in research. She hopes people will also consider what life is like for her granddaughter and others like her. “Those living with bleeding disorders have to maintain a lifestyle of constant vigilance,” she says. She also hopes people understand that by supporting innovative research they are helping fulfill the promise of more effective treatment options that improve the quality of life for those affected. Additionally, Esther wisely encourages those currently fundraising for bleeding disorders research to continue their efforts. “Seek out donors, large or small,” she urges. “Most of the money she raises comes from smaller donations,” explains Esther’s daughter, Shari. Therefore, Esther would certainly say to shoot for the stars and avoid passivity to make the impossible possible.
“My grandma always puts in so much to fundraise for every Hemophilia Walk, reaching out to everyone she knows,” says granddaughter Rose. “It is just one of the many ways she shows her love for me and her dedication to the bleeding disorders community.”
It is clear that Esther embraces the power of people. Through her networking, and ability to connect others to her personal story and compassion, Esther’s fundraising success has blossomed. Esther is a leading example of how mixing passion, strong family bonds and a personal conviction for a cause are a powerful combination for effecting change, one donation at a time.