Posted on Monday, August 25, 2014
When a young friend of the family succumbed to brain cancer, Scott Wittig '94, his wife and children discovered Lighthouse Family Retreat and decided "it was a great fit and idea for our family to go serve a family like hers that was living through childhood cancer."
Founded in 1999, the Lighthouse Family Retreat offers fun, family-centered activities to bring families together during the tumult and challenges of living through childhood cancer. Through the generosity of more than 50,000 hours of donated time from "family partners," Lighthouse Family Retreat provides a carefree environment for children to be children and a safe place for parents to share and connect with others living through similar life challenges. Just months after saying goodbye to their friend, Wittig and his family proceeded to serve at one of the 14 annual retreats in Florida.
"About five seconds into our first retreat, I felt called to help Lighthouse get retreats going outside of Florida and in our state of North Carolina," says Wittig, who is currently an assistant vice president and mortgage loan officer for North State Bank Mortgage in Apex, N.C. "The retreat was so well organized and thought out and served the families in all the ways they needed to be served. It also seemed to fit with my outgoing personality, my passion for helping children and families in crisis and I knew that my network I had built through 17 years (at that point) in a sales position would prove to be very valuable to the cause as well."
This August, thanks to Wittig's outreach and fundraising, Lighthouse Family Retreat hosted its first retreat in North Carolina, which, he says, "went off virtually without a hitch!"
The inaugural North Carolina retreat in Atlantic Beach served 11 families who traveled from other locations in North Carolina and as far away as Virginia, New York, Michigan and Texas.
"The success of this ‘pilot' retreat will go a long way toward the staff and board of Lighthouse deciding to add more retreats in North Carolina and possibly other states down the road," says Wittig. He adds that support from donors is essential in the expansion of the program, as each retreat can cost as much as $50,000, and he hopes to enlist help from the HWS community in his efforts.
As logistics coordinator for the North Carolina retreat, Wittig has spent the past two years "talking about Lighthouse to anyone who would listen by way of coffee conversations, speeches and presentations." He raised more than $10,000 from individual donors and "filled up my garage with donations of supplies from sunscreen to princess dresses," he says. "Our biggest ‘win' in North Carolina was when the Miss North Carolina pageant adopted Lighthouse as the beneficiary of the service project for their pageant that was held in June. After a couple of speeches and presentations to the nearly 200 participants in the pageant (and their families), we collected donations to the point where I said, ‘My heart -- and garage -- are full.'"
With two of the Miss North Carolina contestants serving the entire week at the retreat in August -- and eight others volunteering at the "Unbirthday Party" held at each retreat -- Wittig says, "We look forward to this partnership continuing."
At Hobart and William Smith, Wittig was a psychology major and a member of the soccer team. After graduation, he went on to become a motivational speaker for young adults who feel they are at a dead end. Known as "The It Guy," he has written two books, "The Second Day" and "Holy IT!" He currently resides in Apex with his wife Jeanne and their two children.
In his roles as a motivational speaker for young adults, with Lighthouse Family Retreat, and at North State Bank Mortgage, Wittig has found a way to serve using his talents and his passions.
"I believe that too many people tend to ‘silo' their career from their service work and other things that are important to them," he says. "I feel fortunate to have found that it all goes together -- when I'm in a conversation about a home loan for someone, I like to personalize the conversation as much as possible; talking about Lighthouse is a way to do that. When I'm in a conversation focused around Lighthouse, it inevitably comes up that I've also written books and that I pay the bills by way of helping people with home loans. It all fits together and I've found that you can earn respect and trust by showing your whole person to those you interact with. Moving in this way makes it very easy to have a balanced life because you don't feel like you're bouncing from one thing to another -- it is all part of one overall purpose: to serve others with your gifts, talents and passion."