Fred Cunha

Walking Since: 2008
Raised: $80,000

When Marshall McLuhan famously coined the concept of a global village, he couldn’t have known how right his prediction would be. Fred’s daughter Elise was diagnosed in 2008 at 12 months of age. Fred, who was born and raised in Lisbon, Portugal, moved with his family to Toronto at the age of 19. From Toronto, he bounced around to Vancouver, then to San Francisco, and has been in Dallas since 2001. With many friends made along the way, Fred has literally seen the world rally around Team Elise. “We started Team Elise in Dallas three weeks after Elise was diagnosed. There were nine of us walking in 2008.” In 2014, Team Elise had 268 members walking in five different cities, in four different countries, on three different continents.

Here’s how it happened: Friend and fellow Portuguese expat Tiago, who had moved back home to Lisbon, started a walk on behalf of Team Elise in 2010 and year later, Fred’s sister, Joana, in Toronto got in on the action. In 2013, Tiago moved to Mozambique, where he started another branch of Team Elise, while his mom back in Portugal kept the Walk tradition alive in Lisbon. In 2014, Jason, a friend from Dallas moved to Little Rock, AK and brought the tradition along, with his family of five inaugurating yet another Team Elise ’satellite’ team.

With a dozen corporate sponsors, and an international presence, Team Elise is the epitome of a global community. Consider growing your team through other communities. Invite your supporters across the country to register a satellite team in support of your team!

JDRF: You have been so successful in growing your team! What’s your secret?
Fred: No secret! I have a great network of friends and family that help me to spread the word about Team Elise. We started out in 2008 and have seen everyone rally for Elise and T1D research. It inspires us to keep going and to continue to grow our team.

JDRF: How do you continue to grow your team year after year?
Fred: Well, primarily we focus on getting people to walk with us. Once they walk, they want to fundraise. It’s incredible to see how involved people will become once they hear your story and understand what it’s like living with T1D.

My advice to anyone who has been doing the Walk for several years and is looking to grow their team is to ask people to walk with you before you ask them to fundraise. Have them join your team, or register as a satellite support team in their community, be a part of the cause. There is power in awareness and it is eye-opening to people when they come to the Walk. Fundraising will come naturally when people join the JDRF community. You’ll see!

JDRF: What is the most effective way to communicate with your team/potential team members?
Fred: Email is still king. I try not to over inundate my contacts, so I only send about three emails before the Walk. Usually my emails have information about research updates and why it’s important to me and my family to fundraise for T1D research.

JDRF: What else do you do that makes Team Elise different?
Fred: We offer sponsorship opportunities. I create a sponsorship package and allow organizations to decide how they want to be involved with Team Elise. This has been very helpful to us and has given us great coverage. For the most part the organizations that support us are local businesses that we deal with on a regular basis and have a connection to my family. People who know you and your passion will sponsor you.

Have a question for Fred? Feel free to send him an email

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