“No Limits” Award Announced by ROI Media Direct to Honor Business Execs Who Have Overcome Disabilities and Succeeded

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The First Annual “No Limits” Award was recently announced to recognize professionals from all fields who have overcome significant health hurdles to reach their career goals. Sponsored by ROI Media Direct, a national direct response radio and television advertising agency, the “No Limits” Award will ultimately benefit the Braille Institute and Lymphoma Society in the winners’ name. Patrick Lennon, CEO of ROI Media Direct, conceived the idea for the “No Limits” Award after overcoming a host of medical issues himself, including cancer and blindness.

ROI Media Direct, a leading direct response advertising agency, recently announced the First Annual “No Limits” Award, established to recognize professionals from all fields who have overcome significant health hurdles and disabilities to reach their career goals.

“The ‘No Limits’ Award is a vehicle to inspire others with health issues to stay positive and never give up on their career ambitions,” said Patrick Lennon, CEO and founding partner at ROI Media Direct, who refused to let a myriad of major medical issues -- including blindness and two bouts with cancer -- derail his dreams. “Despite all of the medical setbacks in my life, I feel very blessed, and I'm looking forward to shining a light on the 2012 ‘No Limits’ Award honorees.”

Lennon, whose father was a former prizefighter turned successful real estate developer, received his first life-threatening body blow at six when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The doctors didn't offer his parents much hope, but Lennon would beat those odds only to develop spinal meningitis, a harbinger of more medical challenges to come.

By the time he was 18, Lennon had broken 12 ribs, punctured his left lung, broke his pelvis, and broken his collarbone five times as a result of auto accidents. Undeterred, Lennon, who also overcame alcoholism and dyslexia as a teenager, earned a degree in telecommunications from Pepperdine University, and elected to try real estate sales right out of college.

“I was driving to an appointment one morning when a truck lost some cargo, causing another driver to swerve violently into my lane at high speed,” Lennon said. “My head hit the steering wheel, but I thought I had dodged a bullet. I was wrong. My vision began getting fuzzy, so I went to a neurologist and was diagnosed with an extremely dangerous condition known as hydrocephalus or ‘water on the brain.’”

Lennon was rushed into surgery where doctors implanted a shunt to drain excess fluid and relieve the pressure on his brain and optic nerves. When he awoke, he found himself totally blind. While he eventually regained about seventy percent of his vision, the shunt would malfunction, requiring additional brain surgeries. Several more shunt failures were to follow, with each procedure costing Lennon more and more vision. "One time it failed after a sky diving outing, another time on vacation in Italy of all places, where I had to have more brain surgery," he said.

Despite the scary setbacks, Lennon doggedly continued pursuing his ultimate dream of establishing his own advertising agency specializing in radio and television media buying. He started his company out of his apartment, and later scraped together enough money for a one-room office in San Diego, hired a part-time media buyer (who is still with the company) and, while being legally blind, began making cold calls and gradually growing his agency. One of those calls was to Dr. Greg Cynaumon, Ph.D., a highly successful marketing professional, author and radio and television scriptwriter.

"We met for coffee, hit it off and began discussing ways we could team up to take my small boutique agency to the next level," Lennon said. "Greg introduced me to Zeus Peleuses, a long-time radio industry sales executive, and the three of us agreed to a partnership."

While the business flourished under the new partnership, Lennon's health took another ominous turn about eight years ago. A routine CT scan revealed a heart aneurysm that could have killed him instantly. Again, he was rushed into surgery where doctors were shocked to also find a cancerous mass in his chest. It was an advanced form of Hodgkin's lymphoma that was spreading rapidly. Again, his chances of survival were poor. The doctors aggressively treated the cancer first, before turning their attention to the aneurysm. “Here I was married, with a newborn child, the agency on a roll, and now this?” Lennon recalled. “The only word that came to me was ‘Really?’"

Despite nine months of treatment, which included six weeks of chemotherapy and three months of radiation therapy, Lennon rarely missed a day of work. When the treatments concluded, he was bald and virtually sightless, but he was cancer free, or so he thought. “My wife and I went to Hawaii to celebrate the good news. We had a wonderful time, but on the flight home I felt a nodule on the side of my neck. My worst nightmare was soon confirmed – the cancer had returned after just 30 days.”

Now facing the fight of his life, Lennon underwent a stem cell transplant in Houston at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, where “they basically Ajaxed my system with chemo,” he said. He lost 45 pounds over the grueling process that required removing his own bone marrow (for transplanting later), “zeroing out” his white blood count and laying waste to his immune system. The stem cell transplant worked, and at 43, Lennon has been cancer-free for five years, though still legally blind.

“Believe me, after what I've been through, blindness isn't so bad,” Lennon said. “Thanks to advances in technology for the blind, I'm able to handle all of my duties as CEO. There are a few challenges, however, such as not seeing the expressions of people during a meeting, which sometimes means I speak when I shouldn't. I've also been known to walk into the women's restroom from time to time,” he laughed. “And once I jumped into the wrong car. How did I know? Well, there was a Rottweiler sitting in the driver's seat looking at me like I was crazy.”

Today, ROI Media Direct, which joined forces with Brand Affinity Technologies Inc. in 2010, has become one of the leading agencies in the direct response industry with California offices in San Diego, Newport Beach and Santa Monica. With annual billings in excess of eight figures and growing, ROI Media has top-tier clients such as LegalZoom.com, LifeLock, Regus and Blinds.com, Lennon believes ROI Media Direct has been successful by treating its clients like partners, “and spending their media dollars as if it was our own money. We work hard to become an extension of their staff.”

Through multiple brain surgeries and disheartening setbacks, Lennon remains the eternal optimist and harbors no bitterness over his disability. “On the contrary, I've got an amazing wife, beautiful daughter and two fantastic partners who share my vision about how an advertising agency should operate,” he said. “I've been thinking for some time about things I could do to help others who are experiencing disabilities and health concerns of their own, and the ‘No Limits’ Award is an ideal way to do just that. I'm really looking forward to sharing the inspiring success stories of other executives who refused to let disabilities limit their career paths," he added.

According to Lennon, ROI Media Direct will make a contribution to the Braille Institute and Lymphoma Society in the winner's name -- or a donation to the charity of his or her choice. “In addition, we’re going to create a media campaign celebrating triumph over tragedy in an effort to let others know. There really are no limits," he added.

If you would like to share your inspiring story in the face of overwhelming health issues, or know of somebody you'd like to nominate for the “No Limits” Award, you can email Alex(at)roimediadirect(dot)com or visit the ROI “No Limits” Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NoLimitsAward.

Contact: Alex De La Torre
Title: Executive Assistant
Phone: 1-858-412-1400
City: San Diego
Email: Alex at roimediadirect dot com

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