San Diego, CA (PRWEB) July 21, 2012
A new charitable outreach program dedicated to helping disabled adults and children realize their dreams through mentoring, training, technology, employer partnerships and special government programs was recently announced by ROI Media Direct.
“Unfortunately, disabled children and adults have been put on the ‘back burner’ in today’s society, and our mission is to help give them the tools they need to compete and succeed just like anybody else,” 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. “An estimated 70 percent of all visually impaired people are unemployed in this country, and that isn’t acceptable.”
For Lennon, creating the “No Limits” Mentoring Mission is the natural progression of having dealt with his own medical and emotional battles to become a highly respected professional and business owner in his field, even as his own sight and health was failing.
Lennon, whose father was a former prizefighter turned successful real estate developer, received his first life-threatening body blow at age 6 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.
Lennon also faced serious emotional and learning disabilities and was sent to a boarding school at 13 years old to address his dyslexia. By the time he was 18, Lennon had battled alcoholism, broken 12 ribs, punctured his left lung, broken his pelvis and broken his collarbone five times as a result of auto accidents. Undeterred by it all, Lennon went on to earn a degree in telecommunications from Pepperdine University – though being dyslexic forced him to work twice as hard as everybody else – 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 even though my car was totaled. 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 nerve. When he awoke, he found himself totally blind. While he eventually regained about 70 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. In addition, the scan revealed a large mass in his chest, which was later biopsied and diagnosed as a rapidly spreading form of late-stage Hodgkin's lymphoma. 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 the three-month ordeal of preparing for a stem cell transplant in Houston at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“We rented an apartment nearby so my wife, Carolyn, could visit me daily at the hospital, where she often had to wear hospital booties, gloves and a smock since I was under quarantine much of the time. I don’t know how I would have survived without her constant support, love and encouragement,” he said. “They basically brought me to ‘death’s door’ before the transplant by ajaxing my system with chemo, after which, I was immediately placed on life-support,” added Lennon, who lost 55 pounds during the procedure, which required removing his own bone marrow for transplanting later, “zeroing out” his white blood cell count and laying waste to his immune system. While the stem cell transplant worked, it left him legally blind, but more determined than ever to achieve his career dreams.
“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 billing in excess of eight figures and growing, ROI Media Direct has such top-tier clients as 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, 44, remains the eternal optimist and harbors no bitterness over his disability. “On the contrary, I've got an amazing wife, a 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 – from children to adults – who are experiencing disabilities and health concerns of their own, and the ‘No Limits’ Mentoring Mission is an ideal way to do just that.
“I know the importance that mentors have meant in my own career,” said Lennon. “With today’s advances such as computer adaptive technologies, there’s no reason why people can’t excel in a limitless variety of corporate and entrepreneurial undertakings.”
In addition to the “No Limits” Mentoring Mission, Patrick also announced the creation of the “No Limits” Award as a forum to share the inspirational stories of disabled people who never give up on their career ambitions. “Despite all of the medical setbacks in my life, I feel very blessed, and we’re already getting some amazing nominations for the ‘No Limits’ Award,” he said.
According to Lennon, the “No Limits” Award winner will be selected from nominations submitted to the “No Limits” Award Mission website, NoLimitsMission.org, throughout the year. The winner will be handed a check for $5,000 to be given to the Braille Institute, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society or the designated charity of his or her choice. In addition, the winner’s charity or cause will receive $5,000 in free national media exposure via radio and/or television public service announcements. Also, a nationwide press release program will be launched to tens of thousands of media outlets featuring the winner’s story.
Lennon said the “No Limits” Mentoring Mission is actively seeking employers interested in discussing the government programs available that actually incentivize companies for training and hiring the disabled. “A big part of the ‘No Limits’ Mission’s work will be matching disabled persons with people in positions to hire them. Many people believe that disabled people are happy just collecting a check from the government. This isn’t the case. The vast majority simply want an opportunity to work and help support their families like the rest of the population.”
If you would like to share your inspiring story, know of someone you'd like to nominate for the “No Limits” Award, or want to know the rest of Lennon’s amazing story, go to NoLimitsMission.org or visit Facebook.com/NoLimitsAward.