Walking the walk

For Tash Elwyn, president and CEO of Raymond James & Associates, there is no better service than actively giving your time. Whether it’s smoking 99.3 pounds of pulled pork and giving out 44 pizzas in meal donations during two recent backyard fundraisers to support the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, or his decade-long commitment to making strides with the American Heart Association, Elwyn enjoys giving back to his community.

Elwyn’s active dedication is most evident in his relationship with the American Heart Association. After leading the Raymond James team for the past few years, Elwyn previously chaired the 2019 Tampa Bay Heart Walk, and this year is heading up the City Wide Executive Challenge.

“Year in, and year out, the Tampa Bay Heart Walk has consistently been one of the most successful Heart Walks in the nation, not only in terms of total dollars raised in support of the AHA mission but also in terms of total walkers who turn out on that given Saturday morning in November,” Elwyn says. “In support of that, the City Wide Executive Challenge has been the No. 1 City Wide challenge in the entire country. It is reflective of how charitable the Tampa Bay community is and how well the business community supports each other and public/private initiatives like this. But I think it’s even more impressive when you think of the size of the Tampa Bay community compared to some much larger market areas. As the analogy goes, we’re punching above our weight, and I love that we punch above our weight for such an important cause. Heart disease and stroke affect every American, if not directly then certainly indirectly. It’s wonderful to see Tampa Bay rally together the way we do.”

Although Elwyn now plays a pivotal leadership role for AHA, his philanthropic path started one step at a time.

“AHA often makes reference to ‘what’s your why?’ And my why is three-fold,” Elwyn admits.

He was first inspired to join the Heart Walk 10 years ago by the personal tragedy of a Raymond James associate in Naples, Shelly Church, who lost her teenage son, Kyle, to congenital heart disease.

“Her why became my why,” Elwyn says, and he was further motivated when his nephew, Leo, was also diagnosed with a heart defect at birth.

Keeping his motivation at a high level is the consistent reinforcement from a college buddy, now a leading heart surgeon and researcher, who passionately confirms the considerable support AHA offers doctors on the frontlines of research and advocacy.

Elwyn’s inspiration speaks to his fundamental belief that heart disease affects everyone on multiple levels.

“One of the things that is unique about the AHA,” Elwyn says, “is you have an opportunity, locally, to have a national and global impact. Unlike so many other important philanthropic and health-oriented causes, AHA is unique in terms of its reach. It’s the best of both worlds, an opportunity to get locally engaged and to have a massive global impact. Every single one of us can make a difference. We have the opportunity to change the world together, one person at a time, one step at a time. No matter how big or small that step may be, they are additive. I encourage everyone who reads this to commit to making a difference and to fight alongside this important issue.”

On Nov. 14, Elwyn took that fight to the streets virtually, alongside his Raymond James team members, promoting the healthy competition of raising as much money as possible on behalf of Tampa’s considerable corporate philanthropic force.

“At Raymond James, we are passionately committed to serving people, not only serving clients but also serving people more broadly in the communities where we all live and work. So this is a natural avenue for us to get engaged,” Elwyn says.

Although the format of the event and the venue was different, Elwyn believes it was the perfect chance to virtually, and safely, unite as a community.

“It also was an opportunity for us to remind supporters of the Heart Association, and the broader community, how interrelated these challenges are: Those who are at risk of heart disease are potentially at greater risk for COVID-19 as well. These challenges and opportunities to rise to the occasion are not mutually exclusive. Rather, and very importantly, they are complementary.” ♦

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