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Donors invest in ASU Counseling Services, substance abuse treatment and prevention

Chillemi family: Bob, Lorriane, Tiffany and TC
April 24, 2012

ASU Counseling Services typically isn't the first place that comes to mind when someone wants to invest in Arizona State University. Then again, Bob and Lorraine Chillemi are unique donors.

Bob and Lorraine began the TC Chillemi Memorial endowment in May 2011 after their son TC, a senior in ASU W. P. Carey School of Business and member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity, died from a drug overdose. Knowing they wanted to do something to help other students who might be experiencing similar difficulties, the Chillemis reached out to ASU Counseling Services and found a perfect fit.

“We wanted to be thoughtful about the endowment and to have it benefit ASU students in a very real way,” Bob says. “TC was the kind of guy who would help a friend in need, and we wanted to establish something consistent with that and, at the same time, support others who might be going through the same challenges he experienced.”

Barbara Meehan, director of ASU’s Counseling Services, remembers her initial impressions of the Chillemi family.

“When I was first contacted by Bob only a few days after TC had passed, I was touched by the family’s focus on helping students and student families impacted by substance abuse," Meehan says. "They were warm and easy to relate to, and this investment is really a manifestation of that caring and warmth.”

In addition to the characteristics above, Bob admits to being very goal-oriented, which has lent itself to the endowment’s quick growth. The initial goal was to raise the minimum $25,000 to establish the endowment. After six weeks, they were more than halfway there, recording $15,000 in gifts and commitments. Two weeks later, the total was at nearly $21,000, which is when Bob changed the goal to reach $30,000 by December 2011. Before the end of August, the endowment stood at $30,900.

“Bob continues to raise the goal, and the endowment is now over $62,000,” says Laure O’Neal, director of regional giving for the ASU Foundation for A New American University. “Bob has said to me several times, ‘You will never meet with me that I won’t hand you a check.’”

“It’s important to us to keep contributing,” says Bob, who has planned a variety of events to support the endowment,  including poker and golf tournaments and a 40-mile bike ride in their home town of Plano, Texas, which begins at Bob and Lorraine’s home. “It’s become an annual grassroots effort. We have more than 100 riders already for this year, including five or six from the ASU alumni chapter in Dallas.”

Bob feels the effort is not about becoming a spectacular donor, but about raising as much money as possible for a vital student resource.

“We’ve never had an organized effort that provided support in perpetuity through an endowed fund,” says Meehan.

Though the details have not yet been ironed out, the proceeds of the endowment will focus on prevention, early intervention and recovery support related to substance abuse.

“Ultimately, I would like to see there be enhanced prevention,” Meehan says. “If we can engage the students in prevention efforts and supporting each other in decisions around substance abuse, we can prevent scenarios like TC’s from happening again.”

For Bob and Lorraine, changing one student’s life is worth the effort. Bob continues to expand his involvement – he’s talking with a recovery organization in his hometown – and increase the goal, which is now up to $100,000. He and Lorraine also are thinking about establishing a scholarship.

“I’m struck by how many individuals who didn’t know TC are engaged and supporting this effort," Meehan says. "It’s a testament to Bob and Lorraine to share TC and his story in such a way that people are there with them. It’s been quite a remarkable journey of unending energy and generosity.”

If you would like to support ASU Counseling services through the TC Chillemi Memorial endowment, click here.