DRIVEN BY HOPE: THE 6TH ANNUAL CARS & ‘Q FOR THE CAUSE
Each May, fundraising at Choate Construction headquartered in Sandy Springs runs full throttle as employees roll up their sleeves and work tirelessly for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundations’ Great Strides event in May. Cars & ‘Q for the Cause, an annual car show and barbecue to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF), is an extra stride of Choate’s to support the Foundation. To date, the company has raised over $2 million for the cure.
But these winning numbers only begin to tell the story of Sandy Springs resident Millard Choate and his company’s commitment to the CF Foundation. Even before the beginning of Choate Construction in 1989, a friendship between two families sparked Choate’s 25-year philanthropic quest to find a CF cure.
Millard and Sue Choate first met the Rittenbaum family in 1987 when a budding friendship between their daughters Emily Choate and Leann Rittenbaum began in preschool. But after 3-year-old Leann experienced a year of chronic colds and weight loss, her pediatrician recommended diagnostic tests. Soon after, she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system.
The news was devastating. “As the doctor at Scottish Rite broke the news, all I could hear is that my daughter had a fatal disease,” says Scot Rittenbaum, Leann’s father and now executive director of the Georgia Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In 1988, few children with CF lived to reach young adulthood and the median predicted life expectancy was around 20 years.
But despite her routine of daily medications, airway clearance, and hospital “tune ups,” for intensive treatments, Leann lived life fully, attending school, camp, swim team and having frequent sleepovers at the Choate’s.
“Leann spent so much time at the Choate’s house that we kept some of her digestive medicines with them,”says Rittenbaum. “I have no memory of any gap between Leann’s diagnosis and Millard and Sue Choate not being 100 percent behind us and the CF cause.”
By 1989, the hope for a CF cure was such a personal cause for the Choate’s that when Millard Choate began his construction company as a basement start-up out of his Byrnwyck home, his corporate outreach mission was clear. Now over two decades later, Choate Construction makes raising funds for CF a top priority. While they are often honored as a top corporate fundraising team, they see the real winning in the recent progress of the CF Foundations’s strides in research and drug discovery.
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has made significant progress in the last 33 years by funding basic research, drug discovery and development and improving clinical care through its network of accredited care centers. “We have deeply altered the landscape of this disease and people with CF are living into their 30s, 40s and beyond,” says Rittenbaum. “With no government funding, we rely heavily on companies like Choate.”
Leann is true testimony to the significant advances in quality and quantity of life. She is now senior manager of a consulting firm for online retail and is engaged to be married next year. “It’s the biggest thing I could ever hope for,” says Scot Rittenbaum, who turned his personal journey into a professional path in 2007 by joining the Foundation. “We’ll stay in this fight until everyone is cured. In the meantime, it’s the selfless support that brings out the most emotion in me.”
At Choate’s headquarters in Sandy Springs, Cars & ‘Q for the Cause is one of many custom “fun”raisers created by Choate employees. Over 400 participants join Choate for the annual car show and barbecue featuring 70 classic, muscle, exotic cars and bikes. The popular event includes dinner, live music and a raffle and adds over $20,000 to their company’s annual $154,000-plus contributions. In its sixth year, Cars @ ‘Q has tremendous support from the real estate community, the car community, young professionals and the CF community.
The car show grew out of CEO Millard Choate’s lifelong passion for collectible cars. Choate’s daughter, Emily Bridges, now marketing director for Choate Construction, shares her Dads’ enthusiasm and organizes the event. “Choate has a lot of employees with car-guy credentials. Combine that with our strong backbone for community service, and an annual car show for CF just made sense,” says Bridges.
For Emily Bridges, Leann makes the purpose of Cars & ‘Q for the Cause crystal clear — to help cure Cystic Fibrosis once and for all. “It’s just incredible to be in the here and now,” says Bridges. “CF was once a childhood disease and now 50 percent of those with CF are over 18 and planning out their lives. But a lifespan into your 40’s still isn’t good enough. That’s why we’re insistent on finding a cure.”
Tickets in advance are $15 for event entry and dinner and $30 for entry, dinner and access to the bar. Tickets rise to $20 and $40 at the door.
8200 Roberts Drive
http://www.choateco.com/cars-q-for-the-cause-2015 or call 678-892-1224.