Why I Give: Andrew Jaffee

We recently sat down with three-time Pi Alpha Andrew Jaffee to discuss why he gives to The Ability Experience and why he is a 77 Society donor. We learned so much, his choice to give is inspiring and has led to some professional successes that he directly attributes to his involvement with The Ability Experience and Pi Kappa Phi.

Jaffee has been giving to The Ability Experience since 2006, but recently committed to making a monthly gift this past February. This is what he had to share.

Hi Andrew! Tell us a little about yourself.

Andrew: Hi, I’m Andrew Jaffee, and I’m from Charleston, SC and live in Mt. Pleasant, SC with my wife, Kristin and our two children, Meyer (2 years old) and Jameson (7 months). I am a Wealth Management Advisor and Certified Financial Planner at Apollon Wealth Management and also serve as the President of The PlayToday! Foundation, a Charleston-based 501c3 that serves people with disabilities.

 What Ability Experience summer event(s) did you participate in and the year?

Andrew: Gear Up Florida 2004, Journey of Hope (South) 2008, Gear Up Florida 2011

Finish this sentence. “Were it not for The Ability Experience, I would have never…”

Andrew: Were it not for The Ability Experience, I would have never become the person I am today. The indirect impact the organization has is incalculable, there is this compounding effect created by those that go back to their communities to continue serving. It’s exponential.

Why did you participate in our summer leadership service program(s) so many years ago? 

Andrew: In the fall of 2003 my pledge brother, Ross Curnett, had committed to Gear Up Florida 2004 and approached me about joining him. I thought “Sounds cool, it’ll be a great experience, we’ll be doing a good thing!” Turns out I had no idea the impact that decision would have.

How would you recommend new participants make the most of their summer leadership program experience?

Andrew: Be engaged, start early. Soak up every moment from pre-trip planning to post-arrival celebration and immerse yourself in the experience by devoting 100%. You will be exhausted at points, and those are the moments where it is most critical to reflect on what you are doing, and why. Trust me, you will look back and appreciate (and miss) every aspect!

What advice would you give to parents sending their sons off to participate in our summer leadership service program event?

Andrew: Don’t worry (I’m talking to you, moms!), these young men are in great hands.

Send goodies, The Ability Experience has incredible sponsors, and the crew chiefs do their best to be creative and get items donated – but there is always room for some candy, sports drinks and snacks.

Send texts/Facebook messages/letters, being away for days, weeks or even months, they will appreciate it more than you know.

 Please tell us about any specific success that your involvement with The Ability Experience helped you achieve, and how.

Andrew: My passion for service was sparked by my involvement with The Ability Experience, it is the reason I became involved and now lead The PlayToday! Foundation. The personal relationships I developed have also bled into my professional life. 

In conjunction with community partners, The PlayToday! Foundation has successfully developed a summer program where people with disabilities participate in a variety of sports and learn about healthy eating choices. We have also designed and constructed two adaptive play structures that allow therapies to be delivered outside, one adjacent to the Charleston Miracle League and the other adjacent to the special education classroom at Sires Elementary School.

What has been your most meaningful experience with The Ability Experience?

Andrew: It was the early Friendship Visits on my first summer trip, Gear Up Florida 2004. It was those experiences, feeling that impact, that led to this insatiable thirst to get more involved and deepen the impact.

How did your summer experiences with the organization change the way you view people with disabilities?

Andrew: Without question the shift from feelings of sympathy to empathy. Understanding how similar and how different we are (because we are people) and seeing the world through their lens.

Can you think of three things you like most about our servant leadership programming for students and why you like them?

Andrew: 1. Impact – the immense joy you feel in seeing another person smile.

2. Relationships – you surround yourself with the best of the best that our fraternity has to offer.

3. Growth – the tremendous amount you learn about yourself and others.

What has changed about yourself since you became a Pi Alpha?

Andrew: I feel like I’ve seen myself transform to becoming an advocate from simply a willing participant.

Can you tell us about some of the people you’ve met while on your multiple treks across the country that that markedly changed you?

Andrew: In 2004 I met a gentleman in Florida who used a wheelchair. We talked for over an hour about the lack of funding, programs and resources available to people with disabilities. In 2008 I met Jose during the party that was thrown in Bullhead City, AZ. Upon introducing himself he said, “Thank you for riding for us.” In that moment it didn’t really hit me, and I continued to hang out with him and his family that day. Sometime later I felt the profound impact of that statement, of what our journey meant to others.

What motivates you to give back? 

Andrew: It’s a sense of paying it forward, we have an obligation, a duty, to not only sustain but to support the growth of the organization that had such an indelible impact on our lives, so that they can continue doing good work.

Why are annual gifts from “every Pi Alpha, every year” an important part of the success of The Ability Experience?

Andrew: Consistent funding for any organization is critical to their ability to plan ahead. To have it come from Pi Alphas shows the impact the organization is having years later, that it is lifelong.