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March 01, 2010

Industry with Heart

Putting the Care in AdvoCare

by J. M. Emmert

Wounded Warrior wives offers support to those who care for injured soldiers when they return home.

AdvoCare is on a mission to change people’s lives for the better.

Since its founding in 1994, the Carrollton, Texas-based health-and-wellness company has created a standard of excellence in the direct selling industry on two fronts: providing world-class energy, weight-loss, nutrition and sports performance products, and offering rewarding business opportunities for those seeking financial freedom.

But while the company’s nutritional and financial benefits continue to make a huge impact in improving lives, it is the ongoing spirit of giving set forth by Founder Charlie Ragus that has recently caused great excitement among AdvoCare’s more than 70,000 independent distributors.

In January, AdvoCare executives announced that the company was joining forces with Operation Homefront, a nonprofit providing emergency and morale assistance for U.S. troops, the families they leave behind and wounded soldiers returning home from war. At the company’s Success School National Conference held in Fort Worth, Texas, AdvoCare committed $250,000 in product and donations to the organization.

“We believe that our products and opportunity can help change lives,” says Mike Wade, Vice President of Sales for AdvoCare. “We also believe that the sense of being part of something larger than one’s self plays an undeniable role in personal development and growth. In Operation Homefront, we saw an organization that would have a far-reaching impact and shine a light on a real need that our distributors could become involved with at a local level. It has a mission that reflects the respect we have for the service of these soldiers and their families.”

According to Richard Wright, President and CEO of AdvoCare, Operation Homefront also reflects the values of his company—to respect and strengthen the family. The organization leads more than 4,500 volunteers in 30 chapters nationwide and has met more than 105,000 needs of military families.

“Its mission thrives on helping those who so selflessly defend our nation,” Wright says. “We are grateful for the selfless courage of these men and women, and this is just one way we, as a company, can give back and show our support. Our theme for 2010 is ‘Freedom. Get it. Give it. Live it.’ The sacrifices that our troops make each day to secure our freedom make this possible.”

AdvoCare distributor leaders Mark Leitgeb, Danny McDaniel, Bob Donnelly and Wayne Johnson join AdvoCare President and CEO Richard Wright at a Rocketown event attended by celebrity endorser Michael W. Smith and former NFL head coach Tony Dungy.
AdvoCare distributor leaders Mark Leitgeb, Danny McDaniel, Bob Donnelly and Wayne Johnson join AdvoCare President and CEO Richard Wright at a Rocketown event attended by celebrity endorser Michael W. Smith and former NFL head coach Tony Dungy.
AdvoCare’s initial commitment of $250,000 will directly impact deserving soldiers and their families supported by Operation Homefront.
AdvoCare’s initial commitment of $250,000 will directly impact deserving soldiers and their families supported by Operation Homefront.
Operation Homefront Village provides short-term transitional housing.
Operation Homefront Village provides short-term transitional housing.

AdvoCare’s support helps Operation Homefront provide assistance to families of our troops.
AdvoCare’s support helps Operation Homefront provide assistance to families of our troops.

Helping on the Home Front

Amy Palmer, Operation Homefront Co-Founder and CEO, is grateful for the support of AdvoCare. “This commitment from AdvoCare is huge,” she says. “The $250,000 will impact so many deserving soldiers and their families. We strive to make a difference for our troops, and with the generous support from AdvoCare, we can continue to do so.”

“We strive to make a difference for our troops, and with the generous support from AdvoCare, we can continue to do so.”—Amy Palmer, Co-Founder & CEO,  Operation Homefront

Response to the announcement of the sponsorship was, as anticipated, powerful. There was a standing ovation and an outpouring of emotion from distributors, who can choose from the many opportunities for involvement with Operation Homefront at the local and national levels. They can also donate directly to Operation Homefront through the AdvoCare Web site.

“We plan to partner with Operation Homefront to provide ongoing education that will help drive participation in local chapters, the starting of new chapters and fundraising efforts,” says Jan Wold, Vice President of Marketing for AdvoCare. “Our goal is to maintain awareness throughout the year.”

Vicki Serracino, Program Services Manager for Operation Homefront, was present at the conference’s general session, as was wounded Army Specialist Levi Wilson and his wife, Katie. Serracino spoke to the audience about Operation Homefront’s mission, and Wilson shared his story of the obstacles overcome with its help.

“I’d like to see our number of chapters continue to grow and be able to have a Freedom Walk in every state this year,” Serracino says. “It’s a big goal, and it would be a great if we continued to move closer to achieving it. After speaking to this group and spending time with them, I feel confident that we will achieve it, and more. Every person I talked to seemed very motivated to help and willing to respond with commitment. It’s a great feeling.”

Although AdvoCare did not officially announce a Platinum-level sponsorship until the conference, the company had previously contributed to Operation Homefront’s efforts. In the fall of 2009, the company donated $50,000 worth of AdvoCare Spark Energy Drink, Rehydrate and AdvoCare V100™ Multivitamin from its core product line to troops and their families at home and abroad.

In December, employees sponsored 10 military families by making holiday meals and gifts possible for those families who might otherwise have gone without. Employees contacted the families to talk with them and let them know that AdvoCare was involved. In many cases, entire AdvoCare departments from the corporate office shopped together to purchase gift cards, toys and seasonal items. All were shipped from the AdvoCare distribution center to arrive in time for Christmas.

For 2010, AdvoCare plans to have a product promotion in which it will donate a percentage of the proceeds from a select product during a given month. It will also promote nationwide participation in the Freedom Walk this fall. Wright believes that AdvoCare’s sponsorship will grow to mean much more to the organization, including involvement from corporate employees, independent distributors and the people they know and meet.
“We are committed to achieving the goals we’ve set through our sponsorship and know that, with the heart of our distributors, we will exceed this goal,” Wright says.

Helping an Amazing Dream

Operation Homefront is not the first organization that has benefitted from AdvoCare’s spirit of giving. The company has consistently been involved with charitable organizations throughout its 16-year history, including ongoing relationships with organizations closely related to its Champion Endorsers. While Operation Homefront will be the primary beneficiary of AdvoCare’s charitable initiatives in 2010, the company will also continue its support of several other causes, among them The Brees Dream Foundation.

The foundation, headed by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, is committed to advancing research in the fight against cancer and providing care, education and opportunities for children in need.

Brees, who was born in Dallas and endorses AdvoCare’s energy drinks, established the foundation with his wife, Brittany, in 2003. In the seven years since its inception, the foundation has raised or committed over $4.5 million for cancer research and the care of cancer patients, as well as rebuilding schools, parks, playgrounds and athletic fields in New Orleans, San Diego and communities around Purdue University, where Brees played.

“In 2007 and 2008, AdvoCare was the title sponsor of The Brees Dream Foundation Professional Open, a golf event that helped raise funds for worthy children’s organizations in San Diego and New Orleans,” says Claude Chistolini, COO of AdvoCare. “And last year, we were a sponsor of the foundation’s version of The Amazing Race, held in New Orleans’ French Quarter.”

Although a company event prevented employees from actively competing in last year’s Amazing Race, AdvoCare plans to send leaders from its company and sales organization to participate as one of the 30 teams in this year’s event.

Giving a Boost to Kids

In addition to The Brees Dream Foundation, AdvoCare will also continue its support of Rocketown, a Nashville, Tenn.-based organization that provides programming and scholarships to disadvantaged youth.

Contemporary Christian singer and songwriter Michael W. Smith, a Champion Endorser since 2002, had a dream to provide teens with a positive place where they could escape the negative influences and pressures that faced them. In 1994, he founded Rocketown, which offers after-school classes that include tutoring, academic enrichment, leadership development, creative arts and games.

“AdvoCare has been such a wonderful and long-standing supporter of Rocketown,” says ReGina Newkirk, Executive Director of Rocketown. “Because of their continued generosity, we have been able to provide a safe place for teens to not only hang out, but to develop positive mentoring relationships with adults.”

The Rocketown facility houses a coffee bar; photography, art and dance studios; stages for live performances, as well as the only indoor skate park in Middle Tennessee. AdvoCare donates $1,500 a month for ministry and educational needs.

“We are able to share Christ’s love with these kids by providing a drug- and alcohol-free environment, tutoring services, Bible study, after-school and tutoring programs, extreme sports activities, and sometimes just a listening ear,” Newkirk says. “AdvoCare’s donations have helped us provide these services to more than 1,500 kids a week.”

Building Future Champions

AdvoCare’s other major charitable contribution this year will go to an organization that also focuses on children: the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).

FCA, the largest Christian sports organization in America, has been challenging coaches and athletes to use athletics to spread the word of Jesus Christ. Since 1954, it has worked on the professional, college, high-school, junior-high and youth levels by partnering with parents, churches, businesses and volunteers.

“One of the primary reasons we become aware of, and involved with, the FCA is that a number of our distributors have a background in athletics and coaching,” Chistolini says. “We have been involved with the FCA at the local level throughout our history, including the FCA Cotton Bowl Breakfast and the FCA NASCAR breakfast.”

In 2010, AdvoCare will be a national corporate sponsor of the FCA. The company will donate $30,000 toward FCA events at selected national coaches’ conventions.

Continuing the Legacy

When Charlie Ragus founded AdvoCare in 1993, he selected the name AdvoCare because he wanted to communicate his commitment to be an advocate who cared.

Though he passed away in 2001, that caring lives on. The company’s guiding principle of believing in the dignity and importance of the individual is lived daily through the commitment to high-quality nutritional products that improve lives and build champions, investment in the personal growth and development of distributors, and in the generosity that has touched men, women and children, at home and abroad.