Martin Conneely with TCR Executive Director Donna Smith Sharff
In honor of National Volunteer Week 2016, we’re proud and grateful to share Martin Conneely’s story with you!
The Consummate Family Man
Martin Conneely is the ultimate hometown man. He was born and raised in Arlington, and he has been deeply appreciative of Arlington’s unique sense of community his entire life. Shortly after high school he married his wife of 20 years, Kerri, who was also born and raised in Arlington. It’s easy to see that she, along with their four daughters, provide the warm light you notice right away in Marty’s eyes when you meet him. In 1991, he founded his own local company, Conneely Contracting Inc. (CCI), following in the footsteps of his mentor and father who owned and operated a local roofing company. Everything felt rooted, settled, and secure—until the news came.
A Devastating Diagnosis
In 1998, shortly after the birth of the first of his four daughters, Marty was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a cancer found in the sinuses. He was only 25 years old.
Rather than allow the diagnosis to stop him in his tracks, he leaned on the support of family and friends, determined to keep an upbeat attitude. He endured two years of intense treatment, including the setbacks of many surgeries that simply weren’t successful.
After a seemingly endless tide of surgeries and worry, he received a clean bill of health—and wasted no time giving back to the community he loved so much.
“One of the lucky ones”: The gift of gratitude
In the spring of 2004, with a renewed sense of appreciation for his family, friends, and the Arlington community, Marty made a huge commitment. He decided to run his first Marathon, and to donate the money to a worthy charity.
Marty explored many options, but he wasn’t sure which charity to donate to—until his friend, local realtor, Steve McKenna, brought him to TCR. As Marty says, “From the moment I walked through the doors, I knew that this was the place I had been looking for.”
Marty understood that not all people were so fortunate to survive an encounter with cancer: “When I walked through TCR that first time, all I could think of was what if. With three girls and a fourth on the way, it gave me an extraordinary sense of comfort to know that such an amazing place existed for families that have to endure such a tragic loss. I knew right away that this was a place I wanted to be a part of.”
Marty’s contributions from his first marathon made up nearly 10 percent of TCR’s budget that year.
But he didn’t stop there. Over the course of the next six years, he went on to run three more marathons and host three golf tournaments, all to raise funds for TCR—a staggering commitment of time and energy that provided a crucial financial pillar at a time when TCR needed it the most.
A Lasting Legacy of Renewal and Hope
More recently, Marty’s focus has been on fixing up the home to make it a safe and comfortable place for the families we serve and for the staff and volunteers. He provides professional services to TCR, pro bono, steadily, with no expectation of accolades or special thanks—although he’s quick to dole out thanks for the generous help of Eric Banda, CCI’s operations and project manager, and Paula Moran, CCI’s production manager, in everything he does for TCR.
In 2006, Marty replaced TCR’s dining room windows, renovated the back hallway, and laid new flooring, among other projects, large and small, around the house. In 2009, he completely renovated TCR’s second floor bathroom, and in 2012, he renovated our art room and created a private phone space for staff use.
Perhaps Marty’s skills and craftsmanship shined most of all in 2013, when he transformed the old, unusable TCR basement into a fresh, beautiful working environment for the TCR staff. This incredible transition of space allowed for more program areas on the first floor of the house making it possible to better serve grieving families.
The Ripple Effect
Donna Smith Sharff, TCR’s Executive Director, reflects on Marty’s impact by saying, “Over these many years of getting to know Marty, we at TCR have experienced the ripple effect of his generosity and community support. He has brought numerous supporters to the organization, and he has inspired other businesses and individuals to pledge their support.”
But why does he continue to share so much of his generosity with TCR when he’s already provided so much of his own time, talent, and labor?
Quite simply, he understands that grief affects us all: “This past year I have heartbreakingly seen family members and dear friends lose loved ones. You try to comprehend it when tragedy strikes, but there are just no answers as to why this one or why that one. Any one of us may need the services of The Children’s Room at any time, and I know that The Children’s Room and the wonderful staff and volunteers will be there to help when they need it.“
His unflappable dedication to our mission ensures that’s so.