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Show Him the Money


Paul Thompson, fund-raiser extraordinaire.

For Paul Thompson, the season of giving begins in late summer when, after work, several days a week, he travels from building to building, office to office, and person to person, soliciting pledges and donations for diabetes research.

On a Saturday in October, he turns it all in near the Ravens’ stadium, where he and hundreds of others gather for a 5K walk sponsored by the American Diabetes Association. In five years, Thompson estimates that he has single-handedly raised more than $40,000 for the diabetes cause. This year alone he raised $7,000.

A 15-year veteran of the School of Medicine’s Division of Maintenance and Operations, Thompson is a utility worker who picks up trash on the grounds of the East Baltimore campus. He’s faced more than his fair share of challenges in his 40 years, yet he’s been able to muster a level of energy and commitment that would put even the most accomplished fund-raiser to shame.

Thompson himself does not have diabetes; nor does anyone in his immediate family. “But there are so many people who do have it,” he says. “So I really would like to find a cure, and I know we have research going on right here at Hopkins.”

So far, Thompson says, he has not met any diabetes researchers, which is hard to believe, given that he certainly seems to have met almost everyone else. In fact, it’s impossible to carry on a conversation with him without dozens of people passing by and saying hi.

Cheerful and outgoing, Thompson enjoys working outside where he can see and be seen. He says seven years delivering the Sunpapers (he was an “Honor Carrier”) hardened his body to the effects of extreme heat and cold.

Earlier this fall, Thompson thought this diabetes campaign would be his last. With other employees getting into the act (Johns Hopkins was a sponsor of this year’s ADA Oct. 7 walk), he found himself on the losing side of turf wars. Plus, it was getting tough to collect on pledges.

“If I continue this,” Thompson vowed in September, “I’ll have to have people pledge and give me the money right then and there.’”

“I think that is a great tactic,” says David McShea, head of fund-raising for the ADA’s Maryland chapter. “Paul could do that and still raise thousands. He is one of the most dedicated fund-raisers I’ve ever met. He’s consistently in our top three. I hope to be working with him until we find a cure.”

Remarks like that have made Thompson change his mind. “I’m going to continue,” he says resolutely.

His dedication, he says, could well be a model for others. “And that feels good,” Thompson declares. “It shows that if I can do it, so can they.”

—Anne Bennett Swingle

 

 

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