Citizen Dane: Recknor a cancer-fighting ambassador

“Citizen Dane” is a new recognition program by In Business to shine the light on some of Dane County’s most committed nonprofit volunteers.

Cory Recknor was shocked to learn of his Citizen Dane honor, but when you’re an effective cancer-fighter, recognition will come, especially when a colleague [the American Cancer Society’s Amy Rohrer] secretly nominates you for a new award.

“My reaction? Absolutely shocked. I had no idea that I was being nominated, so I was completely surprised,” Recknor says. “I did tell Amy when I saw it that she ruined my day because I was really focused on having a great day and getting a lot done, and when I saw this, I just didn’t know what to think. I appreciate the recognition. It’s a real reflection on our [Coaches vs. Cancer] event, and our people and our team, but I was totally shocked.”

Recknor, who in 2018 served his second year as the Chairman of the Coaches vs. Cancer Wisconsin Board of Ambassadors, shouldn’t be too shocked because he’s more than a run-of-the-mill volunteer for the American Cancer Society. He has been instrumental in the success of the local Coaches vs. Cancer program. For that and his continuing contributions to the fight against cancer, Recknor was selected to be part of IB’s inaugural class of Citizen Dane, which honors Greater Madison’s unsung heroes.

These stellar citizens don’t have to be members of the executive suite to quality, but Recknor just happens to be a local chief financial officer, and his professional acumen made it possible to serve Coaches vs. Cancer in effective ways. The CFO of Research Products Corp. (Aprilaire), Recknor got involved in the program through a friend. At that time, Recknor’s family and circle of friends were being impacted by cancer, and armed with that motivating drive, he used his financial acumen and connections to lead a successful fundraising strategy in which new executive-level volunteer board members were recruited to each raise a minimum of $10,000.

“One of our board of ambassadors, who is a good friend of mine, asked me to join the group about seven years ago. He thought I would enjoy working on this cause and enjoy the event and enjoy the people who were involved here,” Recknor says. “At that time, there were just starting to be incidences where people in my life were being affected by cancer, so it made sense.”

Prior to becoming CFO at Aprilaire, Recknor was a partner at a local accounting firm. He had made a lot of community and business connections in Madison over the previous 25 years, and they were absolutely critical in finding people who could be successful in helping Coaches vs. Cancer. He not only came up with that fundraising strategy, it was his role to execute it.

“I think one of my skill sets is board development,” he states, “and that was one of my strategies right when I started as chairman of the event — to figure out how we could put the best board together to give us the best chance at success.”

Recknor’s ability to form business boards also came in handy when former UW men’s basketball Coach Bo Ryan, a driving force in Coaches vs. Cancer, retired in 2015 and some board members departed. Back then, the program faced a bit of a crossroads, but thanks to Recknor’s ability to put together effective boards, and in this case rebuild them, it continues to pay dividends for cancer victims.

Coaches vs. Cancer has been around for 12 years. It came out of Edgewood College from Jenny Adrian, who was then Coach Todd Adrian’s wife, and she immediately got Kelly Ryan involved, and both Bo and Kelly have been tremendous supporters of the event since day one. When Bo Ryan retired, organizers had to make a decision about whether to continue it. The big worry was that without the Ryans, support for the event would fall off, but as Recknor explains, it didn’t take too long to answer in the affirmative, even though the board had to be rebuilt. And it has been, with a team of area business professionals who are very passionate about the cause.

“We have an excellent brand,” Recknor states. “We have an excellent reputation. We were doing great things. We had the No. 1 Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser in the United States. We had to figure out how to continue even though Coach Ryan would take more of a background approach to what he was doing. So, he and Kelly continue to be very strong supporters of the event. Quite honestly, it would be tough to do this without them, but we’ve moved on and we continue to have an event that’s one of the largest in the country. We’re very, very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”



Recknor continues to serve a role on the Board of Ambassadors for the Coaches vs. Cancer event. He points with pride to the 27 percent reduction in cancer death rates since 1991 because he knows that much of it is due to money raised for research, including local programs. While that’s part of the satisfaction of being an American Cancer Society volunteer, Recknor wants to encourage everyone to get involved in a cause because the general satisfaction of community service is very meaningful. When it involves cancer-fighting, it’s also impactful.

Many people think of the American Cancer Society as simply a research organization, but there are many areas where the ACS supports people with cancer, and it can be as simple as just getting a ride to an appointment. When Recknor reviews statistics about the people who could have been cured or could have survived longer if they had just been diagnosed early enough, he’s profoundly disappointed. To him, what the ACS does just to help people get access to care is worth every dollar raised.

“Cancer affects almost everybody,” he states. “As a matter of fact, I don’t know anybody who has not been impacted by cancer one way or another. Once you begin to learn about the impact the American Cancer Society has, and the good work that’s being done all across the country, it’s incredibly impactful. Through our role of volunteering, we’re able to meet researchers, and we’re able to meet some of the executives at the American Cancer Society who are on the medical side. When we begin to hear about the impact that research is having, and the progress that’s been made, those things are pretty powerful.

“Once you get involved a little bit, you begin to see these things and you begin to see directly how the money we raise right here in Madison through our event is affecting so many people,” he adds. “It’s easy to continue to do the work, to continue to want to do the work, and really feel like you’re making a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

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