Lisa Myers reached for a table napkin. She struggled to finish her sentence, eyes welling up.
She was remembering a conversation – a moment – that she had with her daughter’s doctor about 30 years ago.
Leslie, her daughter, was either 4 or 5 at the time. She was being treated for asthma.
“It was some type of meter,” Myers said, describing what the doctor was showing her. The meter measured lung capacity, and the doctor set it at a level that would mimic Leslie’s breathing.
“This is what it feels like for Leslie,” he said, handing Myers the device.
Myers tested it.
“I couldn’t breathe,” she said, her voice cracking.
Myers, a principal with Camp Hill-based Boyer & Ritter LLC accounting firm, shared that memory over breakfast on a gray April morning at Camp Hill’s Sophia’s On Market.
How does a morning business breakfast meeting take such an emotional, private turn?
Champion for a nonprofit
Myers was asked to share with the Business Journal why she became involved with the American Lung Association. In March, the nonprofit honored her with its Mid-Atlantic’s Champion of Change award.
“Lisa has been a supporter of the American Lung Association for many years, both on a corporate level through Boyer & Ritter and additionally on a personal level,’’ Deborah Brown, CEO of the Mid-Atlantic chapter said in a statement. “We recognize Lisa … for her dedication to fighting lung disease, her contagious enthusiasm for our mission and her ability to foster support throughout our community.”
Myers is more humble.
Yes, she and her company assist the association. But the nonprofit has weaved its way through Myer’s life: first with Leslie and then as an adviser – someone to listen to – when her brother, 16 years her senior, was diagnosed and later lost his battle with lung cancer in 2010.
Most recently, it guided Myers through the 2011 loss of her aunt and mentor, Betty Lucito, who suffered from COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“If I would have known … ”
In between breakfast bites of scrambled eggs and sips of coffee, Myers said she was approached about 15 years ago to take on the lung association as a client for Boyer and Ritter.
The firm’s partners needed a champion for the company’s public sector services, an area that works with government and nonprofits. She accepted, helping to evolve the practice.
“The American Lung Association came out on bid,” she said. “It started that way, but as soon as I got in and started working with them on their programs and asking questions … the first thing I latched onto was the asthma camps.”
By that time, her daughter was too old for the camps, but the association’s programs, the offerings and the information that it provided for parents were eye-opening for Myers. She knew she wanted to help other moms and dads who might not understand how to care for kids with asthma.
“If I would have known that (the association) existed and if other mothers and fathers have this ability to have this, they wouldn’t have gone through the stress and the learning curve that my husband and I had,” Myers said.
Since then, Myers has sponsored camps, helped to raise awareness of the programs, participated in fundraising – really anything that can give the association the exposure it needs.
Aunt Betty’s legacy
Myers’ has more than 25 years of experience in providing auditing, accounting and consulting services to various associations, including civic and community societies, educational institutions and community foundations. She sits on numerous boards and has been selected for several honors and awards.
It’s an impressive resume and background, but Myers barely touched on that during breakfast.
She did want to talk about her Aunt Betty Lucito, someone Myers credits for her leadership skills and her drive. Aunt Betty was an inspiration, a mentor.
Lucito served with the United States Naval Reserve and traveled extensively. She showed Myers a world beyond Huntingdon County, the area where Myers grew up.
From age 7 to 18, Myers spent summers with Lucito and her husband near Atlanta. She devoured books during those summers, the Nancy Drew mysteries among her favorites. Once Myers finished one book, Lucito rewarded her with another.
Myers turned again to the lung association after finding out Lucito was suffering from COPD. Lucito kept Myers at a distance in her knowledge of the diagnosis. By the time Myers found out about how serious her aunt’s condition was, she had only weeks to live.
Myers provided Aunt Betty comfort at her bedside near the end. She would handle her obituary, putting together the key moments of her aunt’s life.
When Myers would visit the lung association during these times – the loss of her brother, questions regarding Leslie’s struggles and the death of her aunt – they understood what she was going through.
The relationship evolved way beyond the work obligation that initiated Myers’ contact several years ago.
Myers suspects there are times that she leans on them probably more than the association leans on her.
I asked Myers near the end our morning breakfast: Would the association consider you an advocate for them?
“I hope so,” she said.