University of Wisconsin–Madison

Thoughts of Gratitude: Marijo Bunbury

Marijo Bunbury smiling

Marijo Bunbury loves a challenge, especially when she’s passionate about the outcome.

Luckily for the Waisman Center, in 1994 someone told Bunbury that a congested events calendar would make it impossible to raise funds (to support the center) through a golf benefit.

Twenty-three “Friends of the Waisman Center Golf Benefits” – and more than $680,000 in fundraising – later, it’s safe to say that Bunbury has proven she indeed loves a challenge and rises to it.

“Of course, it wasn’t just me who made the golf benefit a success over the years,” she says. “It happened because of the support from other Friends’ board members, all the people here at the Waisman Center – from directors to the staff members – and the numerous volunteers who gave so generously of their time and most importantly believed like me that we could do it.”

The funds raised at the golf benefits have helped sustain and expand research programs, clinical services and outreach efforts at the Waisman Center. More recently, they have supported the Waisman Center Early Childhood Program as well.

Marijo Bunbury and Teresa Palumbo, Waisman Center communications manager
Marijo Bunbury and Teresa Palumbo, Waisman Center communications manager

While the golf benefit was Bunbury’s initial connection to the Waisman Center, “she has helped shape many Friends ventures over the years and continues to be a constant source of support and a Waisman Center partner,” says Teresa Palumbo, communications manager at the Waisman Center who has worked with Bunbury for more than twenty years.

Part of Bunbury’s contributions to the Waisman Center has been as a board member of the Friends of the Waisman Center – a non-profit 501(C)(3) organization that engages community members and volunteers in fundraising and outreach activities that enhance and support the mission of the Waisman Center. She served on the board for a decade, with eight of those years as the chair of the golf committee.

“It can be difficult to go out and ask people to contribute and help financially,” says Bunbury, “but when I spoke with people about the Waisman Center, many of them knew someone whose child, family member, or friend had been impacted by the Center, through clinical services or social support or a different avenue. People felt a connection with the Waisman Center, and wanted to contribute and support it.”

After her term on the Friends’ board, Bunbury stayed deeply involved with activities at the Waisman Center. She even got her family involved! Her daughter, Nicole, served on the Friends’ board for six years. “My family – husband Tom, five daughters, their husbands and 12 grandchildren – has been a blessing; I am so grateful for the time they are willing to put in to support the Waisman Center,” she says. For the Bunbury family, it’s about giving back. “The community of Madison has been very good to us and it’s important for us to pay that forward.”

In appreciation of her many contributions to the Waisman Center, and her years of support, Bunbury was awarded the Judith B. Ward Award of Excellence in 2017. This award is presented annually at the Friends of the Waisman Center Spring Benefit Concert to an extraordinary Friends volunteer or donor.

When presenting the award, Albee Messing, then director of the Waisman Center, said: “Marijo is an extraordinary ambassador for the Waisman Center and we are so grateful to her for her efforts. She and Tom are generous supporters who have risen to every occasion when there has been a need for volunteers or philanthropic support.”

“I was honored to receive the award,” says Bunbury, whose work with the Waisman Center has been fueled by a career in nursing and her deep desire to make a difference in people’s lives. “Knowing that through my simple efforts I am able to make a difference in the lives of so many people has given me great satisfaction,” she says. “When I heard the beautiful story of the Waisman Center, my family and I knew we wanted to share that story out in the community. People only have to hear it once and they want to be a part of it and also help to make a difference.”

–Adityarup “Rup” Chakravorty, Waisman Communications