Photographs by William Taufic.
Foundation for Gender Equality, Center for Family Justice, Make-A-Wish Foundation
“I’m a board member at the Center for Family Justice and have always been inspired by seeing how lives are saved and changed every day there,” says Jill Fitzburgh. Involving boys and men is a part of the process. Her husband, Richard, even sashayed down the Post Road in a pair of towering sparkling red heels in support of the center’s annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event last spring.
While involved in a film festival, Richard, who works for Royal Bank of Canada, says, “Some documentaries on human trafficking and violence against women really struck me. I saw how horrific things can be and my motivation grew from there as I learned more. I went to UN Women [an arm of the United Nations dedicated to gender equality] and knocked on their door—almost literally.” Richard offered to put together a conference on gender equality issues, and the Fitzburghs formed their foundation.
Richard, who often entertains clients at cultural events, says, “The difference with this conference is that you might save someone’s life—actually you probably will. These other events, as nice as they are for business, don’t warm your heart.” Jill adds, “To me it feels like it would be neglectful not to help. We see what is happening five miles away and 500 miles away and have to help.”
Courage in Action
The inaugural international conference to benefit UN Women drew over 500 people, including global leaders and high-profile keynote speakers, such as CBS correspondent Lara Logan and singer Jewel. “Jill and Richard spent the better part of the year conceiving, organizing, planning and fundraising to create this headline-making conference,” says Center for Justice CEO Debra Greenwood.
“The primary goal was to raise awareness,” says Jill, “but we also were able to make a donation for this first conference of $60,000 to UN Women, which we are very proud of since the costs of holding events at the UN are quite high. Furthermore, we have connected UN Women with potentially very substantial corporate sponsors as a follow-up. So we are pleased with our rookie year!”
Beyond their foundation and CFJ, the Fitzburghs support numerous charities and Jill is a dedicated Wishmaker for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Hopes & Dreams
“We plan to have our big annual conference as well as smaller, more focused events throughout the year,” says Richard. “We hope to give millions of dollars away and really make a difference.”
Jill adds: “I hope that we can create enough grassroots awareness and publicity that people are really cognizant of the issues. I feel like we are just getting warmed up.”